Maple Leafs nearly erase five-goal deficit during insane third period vs. Blackhawks
Toronto came up just short, but not without some controversy
If you decided to stop watching Wednesday's Blackhawks-Maple Leafs game after two periods, you happened to miss one of the craziest finishes to a game this season. In fact, it was a rather historic finish.
The first two periods were an absolute disaster for the Leafs, as they fell into a 5-0 hole against a very inconsistent, very flawed Blackhawks team. Brendan Perlini had a goal and two assists, while Brandon Saad added a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks as they lit up the Leafs and stunned the Toronto crowd.
However, the script was flipped pretty drastically in the in the final frame. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford had to leave the game due to an illness and was replaced by backup Collin Delia. With Delia in net, the Blackhawks and conference-worst defense allowed Toronto to rip off four straight goals and storm back to produce an unexpectedly exciting finish at Scotiabank Arena.
That exciting finish ultimately ended up being a bit of a letdown for the Leafs and the hometown fans, as the Blackhawks managed to hang on for dear life and escape with a 5-4 win. However, the ending didn't come without some controversy, as there was one play in particular that perhaps should have given the Leafs a golden opportunity to tie the game in the final minute.
With Toronto pushing hard for the equalizer and the Blackhawks completely overwhelmed in their own end, Delia lost his goalie stick and seemed completely out of sorts when he knocked his net out of place, forcing a stoppage in play.
Under the NHL's rules, if a defending player (including a goaltender) intentionally sabotages his own net during a scoring opportunity, it should result in a penalty shot for the attacking team. However, officials on the ice in Toronto ruled that Delia knocked the net off accidentally, denying the Leafs of a clean opportunity at a game-tying goal.
The Maple Leafs put 29 shots on net in that final 20 minutes, leaving them one shot shy of being the eighth NHL team to ever put 30+ shots on goal in a single period. (The Blackhawks allowed a record-setting 33 SOG to the Lightning in the second period of a game back in October.)
In the end, it was an insane finish to a game that likely neither team left feeling great about, but it's certainly better to nearly blow a huge lead than to nearly complete a huge comeback. The win, however ugly, resulted in a huge two points for the Blackhawks, who now have a four-game winning streak and trail the Arizona Coyotes by just four points for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
As for the Maple Leafs, they remain four points behind the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and they'll have to close that gap if they want to earn home ice advantage against Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
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