It doesn’t matter whether it’s April, May or August, the Toronto Maple Leafs will find a way to blow a three-goal lead in the NHL playoffs.
The Leafs were shocked by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night, as CBJ staged a furious comeback to snatch a 4-3 win from Toronto in a pivotal Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoffs qualifier series.
Toronto seemingly had the game in hand. The Maple Leafs were clicking on all cylinders, and 18-year-old Nicholas Robertson’s goal at 8:48 of the second period gave the Leafs a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead. Of course, by now, we oughtta know there’s no such thing as an insurmountable lead for Toronto in the playoffs.
Columbus stormed back, getting their first tally a few minutes later before potting a pair of goals in the third period to force overtime. Then, late in the first period of extra hockey, Pierre-Luc Dubois put the finishing touches on a career night by lifting a backhander over Freddie Andersen’s shoulder to complete a hat trick and give the Jackets a thrilling 4-3 win.
Dubois’ breakout seems, at least in part, like a brilliant piece of coaching by Columbus bench boss John Tortorella. Cameras caught the head coach giving Dubois an earful during Game 2, appearing to tell him to “wake the (expletive) up.” Apparently the message got through.
“Nothing different, really. Stuff like that happens,” Dubois told the media not long after scoring the game-winner. “Played a good first game and last game I obviously want to forget about that one and push it under the rug. Coming into today, if you’re lacking motivation, I don’t think you’re in the right spot or playing the right sport. Everybody was motivated tonight. We went down 3-0 and kept believing.”
The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are left trying to pick up the pieces before Game 4 on Friday night.
“We just got what we deserved today,” head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters after the game. “We reverted back to some really bad habits. We didn’t have any real purpose or plan to our game. We were just making it up as we went along. We got what we deserved.”