Less than a minute.
That’s what it took, really, to decide Monday night’s tussle between the Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils, perhaps symbolic of the way in which a very short NHL season caused by a 113-day lockout will nonetheless produce a Stanley Cup champion, decide the fates of coaches and executives and define heroes and goats for this unusual NHL campaign.
In other words, a great deal decided in a very short time.
In fact, you could argue that three moments in those 58 decisive seconds on Monday could go a long way to deciding whether the Leafs or Devils end up participating in the Stanley Cup dance in two months. The final 4-2 verdict in favour of the Leafs, you see, gave them a tidy two-game win streak, while the loss extended the misery of the reigning Eastern Conference champions to a fifth consecutive setback and a seventh defeat in eight games.
Given that this 48-game season is all about not digging deep holes, and not doing the 18-wheeler-over-the-cliff impression, well, you sure don’t want to be doing what the plummeting Devils are doing right now.
So what happened in less than a minute Monday night? These things:
With the game tied 2-2 in the third after the Devils had dominated the opening two periods, recently acquired forward Andrei Loktionov pulled down Tyler Bozak behind the Leaf net. Those penalties 200 feet from one’s net make frustrated coaches wonder why they didn’t take dad’s advice and become a plumber.
Eight seconds later, Nazem Kadri, for whom all is golden these days, snapped a pass from the right boards to Clarke MacArthur standing on the doorstep of New Jersey goalie Johan Hedberg. MacArthur spun in a very tight radius and shovelled the go-ahead goal under Hedberg.