For the vast majority of the NHL season, column writers Jay and I are on pretty good terms, following the action, dividing the writing, and commenting on the league’s many stories, players, and events. But for a few nights each season, the fellowship must be broken. And this week, it was rendered asunder for two straight days.
Why? Because his Toronto Maple Leafs and my Pittsburgh Penguins met for a rare back-to-back series, one at each team’s arena. This is the account of those two dark nights, which we both followed and commented on in real time as the games began:
It didn’t take very long for the intensity to ratchet up, as the Leafs had what appeared to be an early goal (and honestly should have been) waived off for a questionable interference call.
Jay: Nobody touched Fleury. Horrendous call.
Steve: Even the Pens announcing team is basically calling that no goal a garbage call. But hey. We take gift horses, regardless of their dental health.
The remainder of the first period had some close calls, but the scoreboard remained 0-0 after one.
Steve: Oh man. Pens are lucky it’s not 2-0 right now. Heck of a first period
Jay: Yeah, Fleury made some big saves. And got some help from the refs.
The standoff didn’t last long in the second, however, as Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski found twine partway into the second, making it a 1-0 game.
Steve: That was overdue. They have just been setting up camp in our zone all night.
Jay: No kidding. I was getting nervous that Fleury wouldn’t let anything else in.
A few minutes later, Grabovski (who happened to be celebrating his 28th birthday) struck again, increasing the lead to 2-0.
Jay: Grabovski’s on fire tonight!
Steve: Grabovski is killing us tonight. Geeze. It’s his 28th birthday today too. That explains it. Birthday magic.
Jay: He was on a tear before the break. Jesus, should be 6-0 Leafs.
Steve: Yeah, it’s not nearly as close as the score shows. Pens just have not been getting many shots on Gustavson.
As the second period wound to a close, the Pens, despite being soundly outshot by the Leafs, manage to cut the lead in half.
Steve: Finally! Martin with the quick shot.
Jay: And here we go. Fuck.
Despite some last minute action in the Leaf’s end, their defense held strong, setting up an intense third period.
Steve: Man, what a final push by the Pens! Kudos to the Leafs to surviving that onslaught. Two intense periods of hockey! Get ready for a crazy third.
Jay: Yeah, that last minute was pretty hairy for Toronto. But even with the Pens managing an entire line change while keeping the puck in the Leafs’ zone, I don’t think they got a shot on net. So 2-1 Toronto heading into the third. Hopefully those missed chances don’t come back to haunt them.
Jay’s words would prove prophetic. But for the most part of the third perios, it would seem the Leafs were going to walk off with the game, netting two goals in 19 seconds and increasing the lead to 4-1.
Steve: That didn’t take long. 3-1.
Steve: (19 seconds later) Wow. That just got out of hand in the span of like 10 seconds. Pens
are all but out of this one.
Jay: BOOM! Leafs up 4-1. Two quick goals!
During a lull in the game, Jay made sure to comment on the commentary of Pens announcer Bob Errey.
Jay: Bob Errey’s super-annoying.
Steve: Errey and Steigy are the absolute worst. I can’t stand it. Though the Bob Errey soundboard is pretty fun… http://thepensblog.blogspot.
But with thirteen minutes to go in the game, the Pens start to show some life, netting a goal to make the game 4-2.
Steve: And maybe I counted my boys out a smidge too soon. Lucky break for the Pens there. MacArthur should not have tried to sweep that puck. It was gift-wrapped for Sullivan.
Jay: Lot of time left.
In what would be just one of the Leaf’s many chances to put the game away, the Penguin’s Kris Letang is able to stop what should have been a wide open net goal for Toronto’s Matthew Lombardi.
Steve: Wow. That stop was huge. Pens can’t take another goal at this point. This PP is going to be a huge make or break moment.
Jay: Helluva stop by Letang there, but Lombardi’s gotta bury that.
Despite having one of the league’s worst penalty kills earlier this season, the Leafs show poise and keep the Penguins power play in check. However, seconds later…
Steve: And the lead drops to one! You weren’t kidding about an exciting third period. Just when I was about to praise the Leafs PK, Pens make good seconds after.
Jay: Great PK and then they give up that shitty goal.
Steve: That one’s a heart breaker. Leafs need to bounce back and try to stop the momentum in these final 3.5 minutes. They still have the lead. But my boys are finally looking alive.
Toronto looks like they have it under control, pressuring the Penguins in the final minutes, and keeping the puck in the defensive end in an attempt to thwart the man advantage. However, the hockey gods allowed one final rush on the Toronto net. And then…
Steve: OH MY GOODNESS ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! 6.6 seconds… And that junk call earlier really comes back to roost.
Jay: Six seconds left. Fuck.
Steve: Official review stands. We’re off to overtime save a miracle in the final 6 second. I am pretty damn glad we decided to live blog this one.
Jay: Going to OT. Same thing happened vs Islanders last Tuesday and Leafs won in OT.
Steve: We’ll see. I am just glad we battled back to at least get a point out of this game. Pretty equal OT records for both teams, unless we go to a shootout.
Jay: I didn’t want it to be THIS exciting.
In truth, I don’t remember all of what happened in the regulation overtime thanks to nerves and excitement. But both teams had plentiful chances (and some eye-popping goal tending). A sampling of our commentary:
Steve: Man, Gustavson coming up huge in the OT.
Jay: How did Kessel miss that?
Steve: I was ready for it to be over there. Kessel is the last one I want with a chance like that.
Steve: Fleury’s turn to show off. These goalies are earning their paychecks in these last five minutes.
Jay: HUGE save by the Monster at the end of the OT! On to the skills competition, I mean shootout.
Steve: If you ever want an argument against the shootout, here it is. It’s a shame to stop such intense hockey five minutes in.
Jay: Totally agree.
And so it’s on to the skills competition, er, shootout, where the Penguins hold a massive statistical advantage (7 wins this season to Toronto’s 3).
Steve: Both shooters try for finesse over speed, and neither sees any success. This is going to be all about the Monster vs. the Flower.
A goal by NHL points leader Evgeni Malkin gives the edge to Pittsburgh, but a save by Gustavsson gives Toronto one last chance.
Steve: Gustavsson keeping it alive for the Leafs. Can Kessel be, well, Kessel?
He comes up short, and the Pens come away with a miraculous comeback and the win.
Jay: Ugh. What a shitty way to lose. That BS waived off goal came back to haunt the Leafs in the end.
Steve: Fleury comes up huge. You hate to see it come down to that, especially with that first period call that wiped what should’ve been the winning goal. But I love to see the Pens make it 8 straight. And you best believe Leafs are going to be out for revenge tomorrow at home. Hell of a series so far!
Jay: Ultimately, you can’t give a team as good as Pittsburgh chances to stay in the game. Even without the disallowed goal, the Leafs had this game in the bag and they gave it away. It’s the difference between a contender and a pretender. Hopefully they can bounce back tomorrow night.
Steve: I fully expect they will.
So there it is. One of the most exciting games of the year, and we were lucky enough to live blog it. There were ups, downs, comebacks, controversies, and plenty of Jay cursing at the television (which his wife has confirmed). Can the Maple Leafs bounce back at home to split the series? Will you humor us and not just go check the scores? We’ll have part two of the rivalry up tomorrow.