The New York Rangers-Toronto Maple Leafs tilt at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night was the type of game the Leafs would have lost last season.
The NHL-leading Rangers were up 2-0 with under ten minutes left in the final period, having scored with 9.3 ticks left in the first and adding another goal late in the second.
(Certainly we saw shades of 2007-08, when the Maple Leafs lost many points thanks to the fact they allowed late goals in backbreaking fashion in numerous games.)
Rookie Leafs center John Mitchell went to the penalty box at the 10:10 mark of the third, and Toronto looked dead, especially with Steve Valiquette in the Rangers goal.
Valiquette was 3-0 lifetime against the Leafs, and had already beaten Toronto 1-0 in a shoot-out on October 17th.
Instead of going for another shutout against the Leafs, the wheels soon fell off for Valiquette and the Rangers.
New York didn't score on the power play, and Mitchell skated into the Rangers zone and beat Valiquette to break the goose-egg with 7:24 left.
It was Mitchell's first NHL goal, and it seemed to spark the Leafs, who amazingly reeled off five straight goals—all in a span of 5:21—to pull out a 5-2 triumph.
Incredibly, it was the fourth time in the last six in which Toronto had fallen behind 2-0, only to rally to get at least a point.
The Leafs lost in a shoot-out to Anaheim in the controversial "switch-to-Curtis-Joseph-for-the-shoot-out" game, and have now beaten Boston, New Jersey, and the Rangers despite the slow starts.
Had this been last season, there is no way that the Leafs would have gotten points in those contests. In fact, they would have gone ahead 2-0 in every game and then found ways to blow them.
However, Saturday's contest against the Rangers turned out differently, as have several others this young season.
The Leafs won't have time to celebrate this latest victory, as they'll be in Carolina for a Sunday night tilt against the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are coming off a 3-1 loss to Edmonton, a game in which Ethan Moreau scored twice with 1:28 left to clinch it for the Oilers.