Bittersweet ending to the Leafs’ season tonight. Despite a solid all around effort and an overtime winner from Dion Phaneuf, Toronto was unable to deny their biggest rivals a berth in this year’s playoffs.
JS Giguere was very good, playing in front of his friends and family, and made a number of crucial stops that kept the Leafs in the game. Jiggy finished with 34 saves on the night, and got a bit of help from the posts along the way, but overall turned in a great effort to end the year. At the other end, Jaroslav Halak looked a bit shaky at times, and Habs fans won’t be sleeping too easy with a matchup against Washington potentially looming in their future.
Andrei Markov gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead, banking a centering pass in off of Mikhail Grabovski’s skate, but Christian Hanson was quick to answer with his first goal of the year, racing down the ice and beating both Halak and a Montreal defender to a loose puck that he banged home to tie the game. The matchup of Montreal’s talented powerplay and the Leafs’ generally inept penalty killing showed up when Brian Giontag snuck in behind Dion Phaneuf, knocked down a saucer pass from Scott Gomez and buried it in the open net to give Montreal a 2-1 lead going into the 2nd period.
In the 2nd, Viktor Stalberg was the beneficiary of another great pass from Tyler Bozak, and continued what has been a strong finish to the season by sniping it over Halak’s shoulder and under the crossbar. Marc-Andre Bergeron gave the Habs another lead going into the 3rd with a blast from the point off a faceoff in the Toronto zone that Giguere just never saw. Hanson tied it again for the Leafs, though, finishing off a shorthanded breakaway with a seeing-eye backhand that beat Halak on the glove side.
Despite a frantic 3rd period that saw close calls at both ends, Montreal was able to survive until overtime and secure a spot in the postseason. Phaneuf’s game winner, assisted by none other than Christian Hanson, who was apparently saving all his offense for tonight, did nothing more than give the Leafs one more meaningless victory.
Tonight’s result means that tomorrow’s game between Philadelphia and New York will be even more meaningful, with the winner going on to the playoffs and the loser joining the Leafs at the viewing party.
1. Christian Hanson – 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 hits
2. Scott Gomez – 2 assists
3. Andrei Markov – 1 goal, 2 assists