Posted on: January 31, 2012 10:37 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 10:38 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Pretty much every game is a playoff game for the Toronto Maple Leafs right now.
They entered Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh in a three-way tie with New Jersey and Florida for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference, and every possible point is a must. That's why their 5-4 shootout loss against the Penguins was not only costly, but most certianly frustrating. Not only because they didn't gain the two points against one of the many teams they're chasing in the standings, but also because they blew a three-goal third period lead with 10 minutes to play on a night that they completely dominated for the first 50 minutes.
Mikhail Grabovski scored a pair of goals, and thanks to third period tallies from Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak the Leafs opened up a 4-1 lead mid-way through the third period and looked to be well on their way to an important win. And then everything started to collapse. Goals from Steve Sullivan and Joe Vitale brought the Penguins to within one, and then a shot from James Neal deflected off the shoulder of Evgeni Malkin and beat Jonas Gustavsson with just six seconds to play to send the game to overtime and eventually the tiebreaking shootout.
One of the biggest plays of the game, and the one that received plenty of attention after the fact, happened early in the first period when Bozak had what would have been the first goal of the night disallowed for goaltender interference (shown above). If you watch the replay, it's hard to see what, exactly, led to the call.
After the game Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was asked what explanation he received from the refs.
"We bumped into their goalie, and we didn't," said Wilson. "And then it changed to we pushed their defenseman into the goalie, and that didn't happen either. There's nothing you can do, you play on, but just in hindsight right now it's an important goal that got waved off."
Joffrey Lupul, the player that was called for the interference simply said "bad call," when asked about the play.
"Refs make mistakes too, but I didn't touch the goalie," added Lupul. "I don't know if their defenseman skated into him or not, but as far as I know it was a mistake."
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.