Leafs to Come Full Circle in Raleigh

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Feb. 20) — The elation of Leafs Nation ended just more than two months ago. Right where the club resides at this very moment.

Nobody knew it at the time but Raleigh, North Carolina would become a burial site for the Maple Leafs. What seemed like a temporary lull of indifference was, rather, the first step toward a precipitous pratfall that continues, unabated, to this day. On the night of Dec. 18, 2014, it was impossible for any observer of the Maple Leafs to envision the club winning just four of its next 27 games; of garnering a measly 10 of 54 available points in the standings. Not after a 10–1–1 eruption in 12 games that hoarded 21 of 24 points — a span in which the club out–tallied its opposition 51–27 to lead the National Hockey League in goals. A visit to the PNC Arena in Raleigh to encounter the 29th–place Carolina Hurricanes would surely keep the good times rolling. Wouldn’t it?

Not even close.

A 4–1 hiccup that night has evolved into non–stop regurgitation. The Leafs are spitting up losses at a franchise–record pace and have 24 games — still 30% of their 2014–15 schedule — to sink deeper into the Connor McDavid raffle. Not exactly an ambition for the club two months ago in the Tar Heel State. But, very much an unspoken objective tonight in a draft “four–pointer” against the Hurricanes. Which gives me reason to pause and reflect on the extreme highs and lows of the Maple Leafs journey since Nov. 20. Come along for the ride… if you dare.

THE 10–1–1 HOT STREAK

THU. NOV. 20 — Tampa Bay 2 at Toronto 5.

LEAFS RECORD: 10–8–2 — 22 points.

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Virtually nothing about this game mattered after the sh–storm created when the Maple Leafs departed the Air Canada Centre ice (above) without saluting their fans. Nor did anyone imagine it the start of one of the most prolific streaks in franchise history. Not after a 9–2 humiliation at home two nights earlier against Nashville. It was a good bounce–back against an elite opponent, cemented with three unanswered goals in the second period — one by Richard Panik (against his former team); two by James van Riemsdyk. Their feelings battered from predictable fan reaction to the embarrassing loss against Nashville, Leaf players slithered off the ice without the traditional raised–stick “so long” to the denizens. It became a story unto itself. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. NOV. 22 — Detroit 1 at Toronto 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 11–8–2 — 24 points.

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A shorthanded goal by Tyler Bozak at 3:44 of the third period touched off a three–goal Maple Leafs uprising that avenged consecutive–night losses to Detroit, Oct. 17–18. Bozak scored again late in the period. Toronto players made nice to the fans afterward with a half–hearted salute, following 48 hours of media turmoil. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

WED. NOV. 26 — Toronto 3 at Pittsburgh 4 (OT).

LEAFS RECORD: 11–8–3 — 25 points.

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Maple Leafs scratched out a road point by out–scoring the Penguins 3–1 in the third period but lost when Blake Comeau struck at 2:53 of overtime. It was Comeau’s third goal of the night. He slapped a shot past Jonathan Bernier, who was screened by Sidney Crosby. Crosby’s assist on the OT winner (above) was his 800th career point. Pittsburgh wore its throwback 1980’s/90’s uniforms. Leo Komarov scored twice for Toronto. PHOTO: JUSTIN K. ALLER GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. NOV. 29 — Washington 2 at Toronto 6.

LEAFS RECORD: 12–8–3 — 27 points.

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This game was in the books at 0:23 of the second period when Tyler Bozak scored his first of two goals to provide the Maple Leafs a 3–0 lead. In a pre–game ceremony, the club played a touching video–board tribute to its former general manager and coach, Pat Quinn, who had died in Vancouver five days earlier. Leaf players wore a commemorative shamrock patch. The Capitals wore throw–back uniforms that dated to their first year in the NHL — 1974–75. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

TUE. DEC. 2 — Dallas 3 at Toronto 5.

LEAFS RECORD: 13–8–3 — 29 points.

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The red–hot Maple Leafs built another 3–0 lead early in the second period and then cruised to their fourth consecutive home–ice victory. It was 1–0 Toronto before many of the Air Canada Centre patrons had taken their seats — James van Riemsdyk scoring his 10th goal of the season at 0:27 of the first period. PHOTO: KLAUS ANDERSEN GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

THU. DEC. 4 — New Jersey 5 at Toronto 3.

LEAFS RECORD: 13–9–3 — 29 points.

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Richmond Hill native Mike Cammalleri broke a 2–2 tie with a powerplay goal for New Jersey at 16:48 of the second period and the Devils expanded their lead to 5–2 in the third. It would be the only regulation–time loss for the Maple Leafs between Nov. 18 and Dec. 16. New Jersey had seven regulars out of the line–up at the Air Canada Centre, including Patrick Elias, Travis Zajac and Martin Havlat. But, the Leafs could not capitalize. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. DEC. 6 — Vancouver 2 at Toronto 5.

LEAFS RECORD: 14–9–3 — 31 points.

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Again, the Leafs bounced back strongly from defeat to spoil veteran goalie Ryan Miller’s first game at Air Canada Centre with the Canucks. Toronto had the game well in hand by 5:39 of the second period — leading Vancouver, 4–0, on goals by Jake Gardiner, Richard Panik, Peter Holland and Joffrey Lupul. Leafs improved their perfect record when scoring first in a game to 11–0–0. PHOTO: KLAUS ANDERSEN GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

TUE. DEC. 9 — Calgary 1 at Toronto 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 15–9–3 — 33 points.

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Empty–net goals in the final minute by Phil Kessel and Mike Santorelli made this game appear more one–sided than it actually was. But, the Leafs again prevailed against a rising Western Conference opponent. Toronto completed a five–game home–stand with a 4–1–0 record. Jonathan Bernier was solid in goal while the Maple Leafs were being out–shot 26–12 in the first two periods. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

WED. DEC. 10 — Toronto 2 at Detroit 1 (SO).

LEAFS RECORD: 16–9–3 — 35 points.

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Mike Santorelli kept the Leafs rolling with the shoot–out winner (above) on Jimmy Howard but it was Howard’s Toronto counterpart — James Reimer — that stole two points at Joe Louis Arena. Reimer made his first start since the Nov. 18 home–ice debacle against Nashville (9–2 loss) and stood on his head as Detroit out–shot the Leafs 38–14. Phil Kessel’s goal at 5:09 of the third period evened the match after Gustav Nyquist had scored in the middle frame. PHOTO: DAVE REGINEK GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. DEC. 13 — Detroit 1 at Toronto 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 17–9–3 — 37 points.

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An exchange of goals one minute apart late in the first period provided a turning point in this game. Niklas Kronwall beat Jonathan Bernier with a slapshot from the blue line at 15:27 to give Detroit a 1–0 lead. But, James van Riemsdyk answered (above) at 16:27 and the Maple Leafs were dominant the rest of the way — winning their third consecutive game over the Red Wings. Bernier out–played Detroit back–up Petr Mrazek, stopping 27 shots. Richard Panik’s goal with 2:10 left in the second period put Toronto ahead to stay. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SUN. DEC. 14 — Los Angeles 3 at Toronto 4 (SO).

LEAFS RECORD: 18–9–3 — 39 points.

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Next victim for the Maple Leafs was the defending Stanley Cup champion and a weekend sweep at Air Canada Centre. A 2–0 Toronto lead vanished rather quickly when Justin Williams and Dwight King scored for Los Angeles late in the second period… and Marian Gaborik at 1:02 of the third. But, the plucky Leafs tied the game midway through the final period on a powerplay goal by James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul scored the only goal of the shoot–out to give Toronto its fifth consecutive win. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

TUE. DEC. 16 — Anaheim 2 at Toronto 6.

LEAFS RECORD: 19–9–3 — 41 points.

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There was virtually no indication this game would be the last good vibe of the entire Maple Leafs season. Not after the club out-blitzed Anaheim — situated first in the overall NHL standings — 4–1 in the third period to prevail in a rout. David Booth, Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel (twice) chased Ducks starter Fredrik Andersen from the net in favor of returning veteran Ilya Bryzgalov and Toronto won its sixth match in a row. After 31 games, the Maple Leafs were just three points out of first place in the Eastern Conference. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

THE 4–21–2 PRATFALL

THU DEC. 18 — Toronto 1 at Carolina 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 19–10–3 — 41 points.

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At the time, it seemed like a bump in the road. “Typical Leafs,” we said. “They beat all the good teams and lose to a bottom–feeder.” If we only knew. The record will show that a shorthanded goal by Justin Faulk of Carolina at 13:43 of the first period put the Leafs on a slippery slope from which they have yet to recover. It gave the Hurricanes a 2–0 lead and stood as the game winner. Dion Phaneuf scored the visitors’ lone goal late in the second period. PHOTO: GREGG FONWERCK GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. DEC. 20 — Philadelphia 7 at Toronto 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 19–11–3 — 41 points.

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The Maple Leafs appeared to have rebounded from the loss at Carolina early in this game — breaking on top of Philadelphia, 2–0, by 5:40 of the opening period on goals by Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk. It was, however, a mirage. The Flyers quickly tied the match and then out–scored the home side, 4–1, in the final 40 minutes. James Reimer replaced Jonathan Bernier in the Toronto net midway through the third period. Far too late. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SUN. DEC. 21 — Toronto 0 at Chicago 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 19–12–3 — 41 points.

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Beginning a seven–game road trip, the slump was officially underway for the Maple Leafs with a third consecutive loss and first blanking of the season (there would be more) — Antti Raanta making 31 stops for Chicago at the United Center. David Rundblad’s goal at 15:30 of the first period was all the Blackhawks would need. PHOTO: BILL SMITH GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

TUE. DEC. 23 — Toronto 4 at Dallas 0.

LEAFS RECORD: 20–12–3 — 43 points.

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Two nights after failing to score in Chicago, Leafs turned the 4–0 table on Dallas at the American Airlines Center. It was a hugely deceptive win given that Jonathan Bernier had to perform gyrations in the Toronto net — stopping 43 shots for his second shutout of the season. As such, all it took was a goal by Nazem Kadri 55 seconds after the opening face–off to provide Leafs their victory margin. PHOTO: GLENN JAMES GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SUN. DEC. 28 — Toronto 4 at Florida 6.

LEAFS RECORD: 20–13–3 — 43 points.

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A five–day Christmas break did nothing to energize the Maple Leafs defensively. Florida outscored Toronto, 4–0, in the third period of this Sunday–night game at the BB&T Center to erase a two–goal deficit after 40 minutes. Former Leaf Brad Boyes scored the powerplay winner with 3:15 left in regulation time. PHOTO: ELIOT J. SCHECHTER GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

MON. DEC. 29 — Toronto 2 at Tampa Bay 3.

LEAFS RECORD: 20–14–3 — 43 points.

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Another bright–red flag for the Maple Leafs, who gradually — yet unmistakably — fell apart in Tampa after taking a 2–0 first–period lead on goals by Mike Santorelli and Joffrey Lupul. As the game tipped in the Lightning’s favor, Steven Stamkos fired the killer shot (his 20th goal of the season) at 11:05 of the third period, sending Leafs to their fifth loss in six tries. PHOTO: SCOTT AUDETTE GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

WED. DEC. 31 — Toronto 4 at Boston 3 (SO).

LEAFS RECORD: 21–14–3 — 45 points.

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The calendar year 2014 ended on an up–beat note for the Maple Leafs, who coughed up a 3–1 second–period lead at Boston but defeated the Bruins on shoot–out goals by Mike Santorelli and Nazem Kadri. Though Leafs were playing not nearly as well as they had in the first half of December, few figured the club to still be winless on the road (0–11–2) since New Year’s Eve. PHOTO: STEVE BABINEAU GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

FRI. JAN. 2 — Toronto 1 at Minnesota 3.

LEAFS RECORD: 21–15–3 — 45 points.

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The year 2015 — fruitless beyond recent compare for the Maple Leafs — began in St. Paul with a listless performance against the Minnesota Wild. Goals 1:55 apart midway through the third period by Jarred Spurgeon and Mikko Koivu broke a 1–1 tie and dropped Leafs to 2–6–0 in eight games after Dec. 16. PHOTO: BRUCE KLUCKHOHN GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. JAN. 3 — Toronto 1 at Winnipeg 5.

LEAFS RECORD: 21–16–3 — 45 points.

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An appalling performance by the Leafs in the second and third periods at MTS Centre spelled the end for head coach Randy Carlyle, who was fired three days later and replaced, on an interim basis, by Peter Horachek. Softened up by the crunching physical work of Dustin Byfuglien (above) — who toyed with the visitors — Winnipeg scored five unanswered goals in the final 36:31 of regulation to win in a walk. The Leafs had absolutely nothing on this night. PHOTO: MARIANNE HELM GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

WED. JAN. 7 — Washington 6 at Toronto 2.

LEAFS RECORD: 21–17–3 — 45 points.

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Welcome to your new job, Peter Horachek. And welcome back to hockey as you know it, Air Canada Centre fans. Two nights after the elation of a World Junior championship for Canada at the ACC, gold medalists Max Domi (16) and Robby Fabbri (29) dropped a ceremonial pre–game puck (above) between Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and former Canadian junior Karl Alzner of Washington. Leafs were still in the game at this point. But, not for much longer as the scorching–hot Capitals cruised to an embarrassingly easy win, out–scoring the home side, 5–1, from the second period on. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

FRI. JAN. 9 — Columbus 1 at Toronto 5.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–17–3 — 47 points.

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Acting as if fed up with their results of the prior three weeks, the Maple Leafs made an early statement in this game — scoring four unanswered goals in the first period to obliterate a 1–0 Blue Jackets lead. Tyler Bozak, Daniel Winnick, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk beat Sergei Bobrovsky in an 8:53 span, allowing Toronto to win easily at home. But, the good feeling would hardly last. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

MON. JAN. 12 — Toronto 0 at Los Angeles 2.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–18–3 — 47 points.

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Though Leafs were playing sporadically, it was difficult to imagine a club that led the NHL in goals scored on Dec. 16 falling into an historic drought. It began on this Monday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, when goals by Anze Kopitar at 0:37 of the first period and Marian Gaborik at 19:00 of the second provided back–up netminder Martin Jones all the support he would need. Jones faced only 19 opposition shots to record the shut–out. PHOTO: HARRY HOW GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

WED. JAN. 14 — Toronto 0 at Anaheim 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–19–3 — 47 points.

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As he is wont to do, Peterborough native Corey Perry put on a late–night TV show for hockey fans in his home province — scoring a natural hat–trick (three consecutive goals) in the second and third periods at the Honda Center. Fredrik Andersen made 28 saves to record the shut–out for Anaheim, four weeks after being chased by the Leafs in the third period of a Toronto rout. PHOTO: DEBORA ROBINSON GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

THU. JAN. 15 — Toronto 1 at San Jose 3.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–20–3 — 47 points.

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Leafs went 0–for–California with a loss at the SAP Center but they did manage to escape the sunshine state with a goal — defenseman Roman Polak beating Antti Niemi at 11:57 of the first period. Otherwise, it was all San Jose as Tyler Kennedy, Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels scored for the Sharks. PHOTO: DON SMITH GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. JAN. 17 — Toronto 0 at St. Louis 3.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–21–3 — 47 points.

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A cynic might suggest that St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was laughing — in the above picture — at how easily his club subdued the Leafs at the Scottrade Center. More than likely, however, it was some form of grimace as Pietrangelo eluded the check of David Clarkson. Most others were chuckling at the Leafs for failing to score in three of four games. All the Blues needed on this night was a goal by Kevin Shattenkirk at 16:40 of the first period. Brian Elliott made 27 saves for the shut–out. The Leafs were out–scored 12–1 on their four–game swing through California and Missouri and limped home with but a single goal in 241 minutes and 13 seconds of play. PHOTO: DILIP VISHWANAT GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

MON. JAN. 19 — Carolina 4 at Toronto 1.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–22–3 — 47 points.

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Having been nine games over .500 just more than a month earlier, the Leafs plopped into the break–even mark with another dismal effort — this time at home against Carolina. A record of 3–13–0 since Dec. 16 had Leafs spiraling toward the depths of the Eastern Conference. Alas, the club did score: Nazem Kadri beating Anton Khudobin with 5:11 left. It was the first goal by a Toronto forward in five games, dating to the victory, 10 nights earlier, over Columbus at Air Canada Centre. First–period goals 41 seconds apart by Brad Malone and Elias Lindholm were all the Hurricanes needed to win. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM 

WED. JAN. 21: Toronto 3 at Ottawa 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–23–3 — 47 points.

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For the first time in more than three months — dating to Oct. 18 — Leafs fell beneath the .500 mark with another regulation–time loss, though there was some push–back at the Canadian Tire Centre. Toronto erupted for three goals (most in one game since New Year’s Eve at Boston) and pressed for the tying marker with a sixth attacker when the clock struck zero. Had Ottawa not bolted to a 3–0 first–period lead, perhaps the visitors may have earned a point. As it were, Erik Karlsson’s goal with 4:40 left to play proved decisive. Leafs lost captain Dion Phaneuf to a broken hand in a fight with Ottawa’s Milan Michalek. Phaneuf has yet to return to the line–up. PHOTO: JANA CHYTLIOVA GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM 

WED. JAN. 28 — Toronto 1 at New Jersey 2 (SO).

LEAFS RECORD: 22–23–4 — 48 points.

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After a one–week NHL All–Star break, the Leafs went to New Jersey and earned their first point in eight games (dating to Jan. 9). It was another loss, in a shootout, as veteran Patrick Elias beat Jonathan Bernier for the winner. The Leafs did compete and took a 1–0 lead when James van Riemsdyk fooled Cory Schneider on a breakaway with 8:11 left in regulation. But, Adam Larsson knotted the match with 2:50 remaining. PHOTO: BRUCE BENNETT GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

THU. JAN. 29 — Arizona 3 at Toronto 1.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–24–4 — 48 points.

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No single moment better encapsulated the Leafs’ January–from–Hell than a bizarre goal by Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman–Larsson. It occurred five seconds after the third–period face–off — won by Lauri Korpikoski against Tyler Bozak. The puck went back to Ekman–Larsson, who wristed a shot from 15 feet behind center–ice that somehow dipped beneath the catching glove of Jonathan Bernier. It off–set a goal by Phil Kessel late in the second period and had a predictable result. The Maple Leafs fell apart and were out–scored 3–0 in the final period to lose for the 15th time in 19 games. PHOTO: KLAUS ANDERSEN GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. JAN. 31 — Toronto 0 at Philadelphia 1.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–25–4 — 48 points.

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Blanked for the fourth time in January, the Leafs finished the gloomiest month in franchise history with a loss at Philadelphia and a mind–boggling 1–11–1 record in 13 games. That, despite changing coaches on Jan. 6. All the Flyers needed was a goal by defenseman Mike Del Zotto at 4:05 of the first period. Veteran Steve Mason made 30 stops for the 25th shut–out of his NHL career. PHOTO: LEN REDKOLES GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

TUE. FEB. 3 — Toronto 3 at Nashville 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–26–4 — 48 points.

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Leafs began February by losing yet again, but gained a small measure of respect from the team that won 9–2 at Air Canada Centre in November. Nashville had to work to the final buzzer for this one–goal triumph at Bridgestone Arena. An odd flip of netminders by Toronto coach Peter Horachek — from injured Jonathan Bernier to back–up James Reimer then to Bernier again in the third period — didn’t work as Mike Fisher (at 6:55) and Colin Wilson (at 11:18) scored the decisive goals for Nashville. PHOTO: JOHN RUSSELL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

FRI. FEB. 6 — Toronto 1 at New Jersey 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 22–27–4 — 48 points.

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Back in Newark for the second time in nine nights, the Leafs were sound asleep from puck–drop to final buzzer. Patrick Elias scored his 400th career goal at 1:23 of the second period and it stood as the winner. Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel were deplorably indifferent on the play — cruising back and according James Reimer no defensive help. Bozak later scored a meaningless powerplay goal. PHOTO: ANDY MARLIN GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. FEB. 7 — Edmonton 1 at Toronto 5.

LEAFS RECORD: 23–27–4 — 50 points.

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On the 39th anniversary of Darryl Sittler’s miracle 10–point game against Boston, the Maple Leafs crafted their own miracle against the 29th–place team in the current NHL. It wasn’t quite the equivalent of Sittler’s six–goal, four–assist eruption on Feb. 7, 1976 but it ranked up there, given Leafs prevailed for only the second time in 16 games since the calendar flipped to 2015. After a dreary opening frame, Toronto took command with unanswered second–period goals by Richard Panik, Phil Kessel and Morgan Rielly — the latter capping a remarkable, solo effort. Typical of these Leafs, however, they could not nurse a shut–out for James Reimer. Toronto native Luke Gazdic scored Edmonton’s only goal with 2.7 seconds left on the clock. It was the Leafs first victory in 29 nights, dating to Jan. 9. PHOTO: KLAUS ANDERSEN GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

TUE. FEB. 10 — New York Rangers 5 at Toronto 4.

LEAFS RECORD: 23–28–4 — 50 points.

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Back into the abyss. Though competitive, the Leafs were porous defensively against the Rangers at Air Canada Centre. It seemed almost ordained that Mats Zuccarello would score the decisive goal (wrist–shot through a screen) on James Reimer with 5:56 left in regulation time. It was Zuccarello’s second of the night. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

THU FEB. 12 — Toronto 2 at New York Islanders 3.

LEAFS RECORD: 23–29–4 — 50 points.

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Though they lost yet again, the Leafs showed some pluck in their 71st and final regular–season visit to the Nassau Coliseum. Anders Lee and Casey Cizikas gave the Islanders a 2–0 lead just 4:03 into the game and it appeared the rout would be on. Instead, the visitors settled down and tied the match with quick goals of their own early in the second period, by Richard Panik and Trevor Smith. But, Lee’s second of the night — at 12:02 of the middle frame — stood as the winner. Lee shoveled a rebound from Travis Hamonic’s point–shot under Jonathan Bernier’s pads. “These poor starts are bewildering to me,” said Peter Horachek afterward. Horachek’s record as the Leafs interim coach fell to 2–13–1. PHOTO: MIKE STOBE GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

SAT. FEB. 14 — Toronto 1 at Montreal 2 (SO).

LEAFS RECORD: 23–29–5 — 51 points.

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Given the Canadiens had lost at home to Arizona, Buffalo and Edmonton — three of the NHL’s worst teams — between Feb. 1 and Feb. 12, the Leafs figured to have a chance for something sweet on Valentine’s Day. Instead, the visitors came away from the Bell Centre with a sour point, losing in a shoot–out. Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais fooled Jonathan Bernier in the penalty–shot competition; Mike Santorelli replied for Toronto in his final moment as a Leaf (he and Cody Franson were traded to Nashville shortly after the game). The regulation scoring occurred 41 seconds apart in the first period — Daniel Winnick putting the Maple Leafs on top; Brendan Gallagher quickly replying on a Montreal powerplay. PHOTO: FRANCOIS LACASSE GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

TUE. FEB. 17 — Florida 3 at Toronto 2.

LEAFS RECORD: 23–30–5 — 51 points.

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This game began with a reminder of the Leafs hot streak in December as Tyler Bozak scored an early (4:03) powerplay goal to put the home team ahead. As per the norm since December, it was a fleeting moment. Jussi Jokinen, Nick Bjugstad and Jimmy Hayes scored consecutively for the Panthers and Toronto lost for the 23rd time in 27 games. Veteran Olli Jokinen — acquired from Nashville in the Cody Franson/MikeSantorelli trade — saw limited ice time (10:37) and was not a factor in his Maple Leafs debut. PHOTO: GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

?     ?     ?     ?     ?     ?     ?     ?     ?     ?

So, now you are up to date with the Leafs. Thirty–nine games played between Nov. 20 and Feb. 17. A record of 14–22–3 with antithetical splits of 10–1–1 and 4–21–2. From within three points of first place in the Eastern Conference and a seven–point playoff cushion on Dec. 17 to 28 points out of first place and 14 points beneath playoff territory today.

Which simply ensures that this Toronto Maple Leafs club will be remembered historically — for all the wrong reasons.

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