MONTREAL – Under the bright lights of a Saturday night in Montreal hit by a gloomy playoff hunt, the Toronto Maple Leafs seemed to have discovered the kind of defensive performance that Sheldon Keefe not only coveted but also demanded from his ice hockey team Has.
Until everything fell apart again.
"I had to point out a few things this morning that resulted in giving the teams time to finish for fuel and energy," said Keefe during his first night training on his favorite track as a player.
“For me, a lot is about our physicality and how committed we are to closing defensively and getting the puck back quickly. Because when we have the puck, it's very difficult to play against us. "
Home of maple leaves
Stream 56 Maple Leafs games with Sportsnet NOW this season. Get over 500 non-blackout NHL games, including Hockey Night in Canada, all outdoor games, the All Star game, 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and more.
Toronto had little resemblance to the club that led to the Panthers, Rangers, and Ducks earlier this week, and limited the most shooting-friendly side of the NHL to eleven shots on Jack Campbell's net and reveal the Leafs' potential if their effort and patience matches their offensive talents.
"Carey Price, we know the impact it makes," said Keefe. "So it's a really, really difficult team to play against in this sense."
Toronto's 200-foot effort was not rewarded, however, as the Leafs lost 1-2 against their oldest rival in the tough competition.
Suddenly hot John Tavares struck a goalless draw during the first dangerous onslaught of the third period and a rainstorm from “Go! Leafs! Go! "Chants in the enemy cathedral.
The captain has now found the backbone of the goal five times in his four-game break.
Draw attention to the inevitable advance of the Habs, which broke out in violent waves as the clock ticked and the Leafs slid back on their heels.
With Montreal's 15th shot of the third frame, Marco Scandella finally found a string and staged a doozy of a finish.
Ilya Kovalchuk delivered the overtime winner.
Just as a few sloppy periods during this busy four-game week showed why a post-season berth is anything but guaranteed, Saturday's more disciplined and detailed performance reminded that there is one when their work boots are put on Reason to dream.
"During the different points during the season, there are only different obstacles and different things that become problems," said Jason Spezza, who was blessed with the perspective of 1,109 games.
"It is probably good for us that we have to see different things and different struggles and have to get through it."
Sign up for the NHL newsletter
Get the best of our NHL reporting and exclusive offers straight to your inbox!
After a wild week in Leafland that started with a dizzying loss, involving a potential turning point trade and critical absences from Frederik Andersen (Neck) and William Nylander (Disease), Toronto emerged on the right side of the bladder – if hardly.
"The whole league is in the bubble," said Spezza. "I don't know if someone is too sure where they are when you look at the table.
“Since Sheldon has been our trainer, our record has been good. I think we are a team that is on the right track. I think we have our warts like everyone else and we try to process them. But for the most part, we've done a lot of good since Sheldon's coach, and we need to keep building – and I think we're in a really good position. "
This position was improved by a new goalkeeper No. 2 in Campbell, who was able to collect valuable table points in successive nights in games with one goal.
"To get into the playoffs, we have to win a lot of tight games – and that's playoff hockey," said Spezza. "Well, we'll be well prepared if we can get there."