By HOWARD BERGER
BUFFALO (Apr. 4) – It took Randy Carlyle exactly one month to blow his cover and vent some of the exasperation smoldering within him as coach of the Maple Leafs.
Sigmund Freud wouldn’t go near this group of hockey players with a ten-foot pole, yet Carlyle has been entrusted – since Mar. 3 – to somehow work through the emotional trauma that ripped apart the club in the past two months. He was doing rather well until the Leafs spit one up in grand fashion here on Tuesday – gagging on a 5-3 lead with 5:03 left in regulation and dropping a 6-5 overtime decision to the desperate and game Buffalo Sabres. In playing time, it was an eight-minute-and-32-second microcosm of all that has destroyed the Blue and White since early February.
If the game had been played in a canyon rather than a hockey rink, the visitors would have been seen going over a monstrous cliff in an 18-wheeler.
Buffalo tied the match with 1:53 remaining after a long rugby-type scramble in front of goalie Ben Scrivens. Referee Mike Hasenfratz, in perfect position beside the net, maintained sight of the puck as Jordan Leopold poked it across the line. Still, Carlyle wasn’t happy.
“If I say what I want to say, we’ll be reading about a nominal fine for the coach of the Maple Leafs,” he groused amid the usual mob of print and electronic reporters. “Everything went our way early in the game and everything went against us toward the end. But, some of the defensive miscues we made on their goals…”
THESE EXPRESSIONS SAY IT ALL: LEAFS COACH RANDY CARLYLE AND AN AGING PAUL HENDRICK AFTER TUESDAY NIGHT’S COLLAPSE HERE IN BUFFALO.
It was easily the most aggravated Carlyle has appeared following any of his 16 games behind the Leafs bench – even more-so than after the 8-0 and 7-1 humiliations against Boston and Philadelphia. The season will mercifully end for Ron Wilson’s replacement on Saturday night in Montreal; another week of this and he’d be on a couch in someone’s office.
My photo-review, now, of the Leafs 21st loss in the past 27 games:
DOES IT MATTER WHAT CITY WE’RE IN WHEN LEAFS ARE ON THE ROAD?
THESE ARE NERVE-WRACKING HOURS FOR BUFFALO HOCKEY FANS.
FIRST NIAGARA CENTER FILLS AS LEAFS AND SABRES WARM UP.
AREA BEHIND BROADCAST BOOTHS IN FIRST NIAGARA CENTER PRESS BOX (ABOVE-LEFT) AND VIEW OUT PORT-HOLE WINDOW LOOKING WEST TOWARD LAKE ERIE.
REFEREE DAN O’HALLORAN GETS SET TO DROP THE PUCK BETWEEN TYLER ENNIS OF BUFFALO AND JOE COLBORNE OF THE LEAFS – CALLED UP PRIOR TO TUESDAY’S GAME.
IT WAS ALL LEAFS IN THE FIRST PERIOD AS CONSECUTIVE GOALS BY TYLER BOZAK AND A SINGLE BY MATT FRATTIN CRAFTED WHAT APPEARED TO BE A COMMANDING LEAD.
BEN SCRIVENS LOOKED TO BE EN ROUTE TO A SECOND VICTORY IN AS MANY STARTS.
THERE WERE A COUPLE OF SCRAPS IN THE OPENING PERIOD (ABOVE) – JAY ROSEHILL SQUARING OFF AGAINST BRAYDEN McNABB AND FRATTIN ENGAGING IN HIS FIRST PRO FIGHT (BOTTOM-RIGHT) AGAINST MARCUS FOLIGNO, WHO HAD TAKEN A RUN AT BOZAK.
PLAQUE ON BACK WALL OF THE PRESS BOX COMMEMORATING THE MUCH-LOVED VOICE OF THE SABRES IN THEIR FIRST QUARTER-CENTURY. SADLY, TED DARLING CONTRACTED ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND DIED IN 1996 AT THE AGE OF 61.
SABRES BEGAN THE SECOND PERIOD (ABOVE) WITH ENERGY THEY LACKED IN THE ABYSMAL OPENING 20 MINUTES. IT WOULD SOON PAY OFF.
TYLER ENNIS SCORED A POWERPLAY GOAL (ABOVE) AT 4:21 OF THE MIDDLE FRAME TO PUT BUFFALO ON THE BOARD; LEAFS JOEY CRABB WAS OFF FOR TRIPPING.
WITH JOE COLBORNE SERVING A GOALTENDER-INTERFERENCE PENALTY LESS THAN A MINUTE AFTER BUFFALO’S OPENING MARKER, LEAFS DID A GOOD JOB OF LIMITING THE SABRES’ MOMENTUM – ALBEIT BRIEFLY.
THIS IMAGE ISN’T LIKELY TO APPEAR ON THE COVER OF FRANCOIS ALLAIRE’S GOALTENDING-INSTRUCTION MANUAL.
EX-SABRE CLARKE MacARTHUR SCORED HIS 20th GOAL OF THE SEASON (TOP-LEFT) AT 1:28 OF THE THIRD PERIOD TO RESTORE TORONTO’S TWO-GOAL LEAD, BUT DEREK ROY REPLIED (TOP-RIGHT) 56 SECONDS LATER AND WAS MOBBED BY HIS TEAMMATES. WHEN JAKE GARDINER MADE IT 5-3 LEAFS (BOTTOM-RIGHT) AT 10:39, SABRES WERE ON LIFE-SUPPORT.
CURRENT AND PAST NAMES ADORNED JERSEYS IN THE SELL-OUT CROWD ON TUESDAY.
SCRIVENS WAS HARASSED THROUGHOUT THE FINAL 10 MINUTES OF REGULATION – ABOVE AND BELOW BY SABRES’ VETERAN DREW STAFFORD.
DION PHANEUF’S BODY-LANGUAGE IN DISCUSSION WITH REFEREE MIKE HASENFRATZ (ABOVE) INDICATED HE WAS PRETTY SURE ALEXANDER SULZER’S GOAL AT 14:57 OF THE THIRD PERIOD WOULD BE VERIFIED BY VIDEO-REVIEW – CONFIRMATION PROVIDED BY FELLOW REF O’HALLORAN SECONDS LATER. SUDDENLY, IT WAS 5-4 TORONTO.
THERE WAS MORE GRIEF FOR SCRIVENS (ABOVE AND BELOW) AS BUFFALO PRESSED FOR THE TYING MARKER – ITS PLAYOFF HOPES HANGING BY A THREAD.
A WILD, ALMOST BIZARRE SCRAMBLE IN FRONT OF THE VISITORS’ GOAL (ABOVE AND BELOW) WOULD NOT BE BLOWN DEAD BY REFEREE HASENFRATZ UNTIL JORDAN LEOPOLD SOMEHOW POKED A LOOSE PUCK INTO THE NET TO TIE THE MATCH WITH 1:53 REMAINING.
ROY AND BOZAK FACE OFF AT CENTRE TO BEGIN OVERTIME.
THE TURNING POINT IN TUESDAY’S MATCH (ABOVE): DION PHANEUF IN THE PROCESS OF INADVERTENTLY FLIPPING THE PUCK OVER THE GLASS AT 1:52 OF OVERTIME FOR A DELAY-OF-GAME PENALTY.
SABRES WIN THE GAME ON THE POWERPLAY (ABOVE) WHEN DEREK ROY BEATS SCRIVENS WITH A QUICK SHOT FOR HIS SECOND OF THE NIGHT AND 17th OF THE SEASON AT 3:29 OF THE EXTRA PERIOD.
A BELEAGUERED CARLYLE TRIES TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL AFTERWARD.
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