March 25, 2019 will always be a special date for John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Already locked into a playoff spot, the Toronto Maple Leafs were playing out the schedule destined to face the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2019 NHL Playoffs.
In their third last regular season game at Scotiabank Arena, it felt like a normal Monday night in Toronto.
The Leafs opponent that night were the Florida Panthers. A team that was already scheduled to miss the playoffs for the 20th time in their 25 year team history.
With Roberto Luongo’s career nearing the end, Leaf fans in attendance were hoping he would get the start, just to be able to watch the future Hall-of-Famer one last time.
Instead, the rookie Samuel Montembeault got the nod against Frederik Andersen, in what would be a special night for Toronto.
For whatever reason, early week-day games in Toronto always seem to be high-scoring and this game was no different. Four minutes in, the Leafs were already up 2-0 with goals scored by Patrick Marleau and Jake Muzzin.
For those fans who were hoping to see Luongo, they got their wish quickly as starter Montembeault was pulled after allowing two goals on four shots.
The Magical Night for Tavares Begins – Goal #1
Already up 2-0 midway through the first period, the Leafs went on the power-play. On the ice with Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly, this unit was always lethal.
After a Marner shot from the point, Tavares found the puck in front and jammed it home past Luongo between his own legs. With his first of the night and 42nd on the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were up 3-0.
After Florida scored to make it 3-1, the high scoring period continued. Rielly made a great play to keep the puck in the zone and passed it to Nylander. Nylander then dished it to Hyman who drove the net, finding Tavares once again in front for the tap-in goal.
With two goals in the first period by Tavares already, he was on his way to a magical night.
Goal #3 (Hat-Trick)
Tavares has always been known as a smart player who finds the scoring area. I mean, you can’t score 30 goals every year in the NHL if you don’t know where to be every night.
His hat-trick goal was a perfect example of right place at the right time. Streaking through the middle of the ice, Rielly shot a low puck on net hitting Luongo’s left pad, which kicked perfectly to the middle of the ice.
Situated right in front of the net, Tavares was “Johnny on the spot”, locating the rebound and shooting it past Luongo for his third goal of the night.
A hat-trick is an amazing night, but a four-goal night is something special.
As you can see in the video below, Tavares owes Marner a bottle of wine. Marner does an incredible job by keeping puck possession from his knees down low, as he passes it to Muzzin.
Muzzin then passes it to Travis Dermott, who fires it on net, however it gets blocked. That’s where Marner comes in as the hero again.
Marner, while falling, gets a shot on net which deflects perfectly off Luongo’s pad towards the front of the net. As per usual, Tavares was in perfect position all alone to shoot the puck into an empty cage for his fourth goal of the night.
Scoring four goals in a NHL game is rare, and it’s the only time Tavares has ever accomplished that feat. That fourth tally was even more important as it ended up being the game-winning goal in an eventual 7-5 win for Toronto.
With unfortunately no hockey to watch right now, it’s fun to look back at old memories and remember that special night one year ago today.