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Overtime heartbreak

Fine Maple Leafs effort ends in loss
Fan reacts as Leafs tie it up | Graham Wood
Fan reacts as Leafs tie it up | Graham Wood

Down two goals after a first period in which the score did not reflect the play, Leafs fought back hard in the second period last night, with Morgan Rielly scoring twice. Unfortunately only the first goal, a point shot through traffic with assists from Lafferty and Kämpf, counted. 

His second goal, on a terrific solo drive to the net, was ruled no goal by the on ice official. Under review, although Leafs fans were convinced it had crossed the line, there was not sufficient certainty to overturn that ruling. (Judgement 1, Leafs 0.)

Willy Nylander finally tied the game with less than 5 minutes remaining in the third period, on a sharp angle shot over the incredible Bobrovsky's shoulder. Oakville's John Tavares was credited with an assist, as was T.J. Brodie, who played a stellar game. 

The game went into overtime and Leafs won battle after battle on the boards and kept taking the play to Florida. Then a dubious penalty was called on Brodie, whose stick was the last to touch the puck when it went over the boards at the bench, where there is no glass.

If a defenceman puts the puck over the glass from behind the blueline, it is an automatic delay of game, but this was a judgement call, given there was no glass: was the puck up high enough to have cleared it had there been? One might imagine that in overtime this would be a benefit of the doubt call: not tonight. (Judgement 2, Leafs 0.)

Leafs killed the overtime penalty. Then they were charged with icing the puck, bringing the play back to the defensive zone for a face off. Again, there was a question about Bobrovsky, going out to play the puck as the race to the hash marks took place. The officials ruled he had played it too late. The result, a face off in the Leafs' zone leading to an overtime goal by Florida to end the series. (Judgement 3, Leafs 0.)

Tonight's loss is not down to the Leafs' organization. Other losses, that put them in this position, can be laid at different feet, though my personal opinion is that the players' failures were largely the kinds of things a coach should have been able to correct: looking for pretty goals, not coming out strong in the first period.

But tonight, neither the mix of talent, nor the game time coaching decisions, nor the players' effort, could be faulted. They played a very good team with a supernaturally good goalie, they had some tough breaks from officials' judgement, and in a "last goal wins" scenario, Florida managed the last goal. 

Given the salary cap and the length of time some of Toronto's top players have been around, there will doubtless be changes next year, on ice and in the management team. This year's team had all the elements to take Toronto deep into the playoffs. At one point, the oddsmakers favoured the Leafs to win it all.

The boys in blue got through the first round for the first time in 19 years, and showed some real game in the last two games of the series against the Panthers. It was too late. They came up short.

Leafs watchers will be waiting to see what moves will be made over the summer before passing judgement on the chances next season.