Toronto Maple Leafs Win, Again and Again

KP Wee@kpwee1Senior Writer IFebruary 19, 2008

Many Leafs fans out there wanted to see the Leafs "tank" and give up the rest of the season.

On Saturday (Feb. 16th), had the Toronto Maple Leafs lost and the Los Angeles Kings won, the blue and white would have been at the basement of the entire league.

Well, Toronto has refused to co-operate in the last four days.

Instead, the Maple Leafs overcame a third-period deficit Saturday night against the Boston Bruins at the ACC with two goals in the last five minutes of regulation to seemingly take control.

And despite blowing yet another last-minute lead--when Bruins captain Zdeno Chara scored with 49.8 ticks left--Toronto managed to recover and win it in overtime.

The Leafs outshot the Bruins 27-9 in the last 43:39 of the contest and escaped with the narrow victory. 

Right-winger Darcy Tucker was the hero, getting two goals--the tying goal at 14:18 of the third and the winner with 1:21 remaining in OT--and an assist. With his heroic efforts, Tucker was red hot with six goals in the last five games.

Fast forward to Tuesday night.

While Tucker was kept off the scoresheet--the winger took a slapshot off his foot from teammate Jason Blake in the opening period, but managed to return later--the Leafs still managed to hang on in their 3-1 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets at the ACC.

Amazing. The Leafs scored the first two goals and took a 3-1 lead by the 16:57 mark of the first period.

No collapse happened this time, as the penalty-killers kept the Jackets off the scoreboard in four short-handed situations, and Vesa Toskala made 26 saves to secure his 22nd win of the season.

Toskala is now 5-2-0 with a sub-2.00 GAA in his career against Columbus.

With the victory Tuesday, Toronto (25-27-9) now has 59 points and kept pace with the Bruins, who beat Carolina 3-2 in a shootout. Boston started the day tied with idle Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

(And how about the Bruins' near-collapse Tuesday? They allowed the Hurricanes to get two goals in the last 1:03 to ruin Tim Thomas' shutout and send the contest into overtime.)

Actually, thanks to their shootout win, the Bruins are now tied with the Philadelphia Flyers--who lost to the Ottawa Senators in a shootout--for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Both Boston (30-23-6) and Philadelphia (30-24-6) have 66 points.

The Leafs are still 7 points out of a playoff spot, and are still stuck in 14th place.

Still a seven-point deficit is not insurmountable, if the Leafs decide to go for it and try to make the playoffs.

Meanwhile, on a slightly different note, as mentioned, the Sens beat the fading Flyers in a shootout. Elsewhere, the Canadiens also won in a shootout, beating the Rangers after rallying from a 5-0 deficit--the greatest comeback in franchise history. (Was Grant Fuhr playing for the Rangers on Tuesday?)

Both Ottawa (35-20-5) and Montreal (33-19-9) remain tied for the top spot in the conference. Both teams have 75 points, although the Senators have more victories and have a game in hand.

The unfortuante part about the Sens-Canadiens battle for top spot is that, should both teams finish with the top two records in the East, one of them will be relegated to the No. 4 seed because they both hail from the same division.

Why did I suddenly bring up the Sens and Canadiens?

Well, I remember a friend making a bet during the pre-season that: 1) both Ottawa and Montreal would finish ahead of Toronto in the standings, and that 2) the Leafs would miss the playoffs.

The first one is going to happen, obviously.

We'll see about the second prediction. Still 21 games remaining for the Leafs to right their ship, if they choose to do so.

The Leafs players definitely have refused to give up on the season, and veterans like Tucker and captain Mats Sundin reportedly have no interest in waiving their no-trade clauses.

And The National Post and Globe and Mail also reported Tuesday that defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who also has a no-trade clause in his contract, apparently has spurned a trade to the Flyers.

Others on the Leafs with no-trade clauses are defensemen Pavel Kubina and Bryan McCabe.

The Leafs' faithful, however, hope the team just tanks and shoots for the top spots in the NHL Entry Draft--and the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes--instead.