TORONTO (Oct. 28) — Though twice trailing on the scoreboard, the Maple Leafs performed very efficiently during Thursday night’s 3–2 victory over Florida at the Air Canada Centre. As with most coaches, Mike Babcock likes his team to be “hard on the puck” and the youthful Leafs complied — outworking the Panthers in the first two periods; then going “off script” and nursing a one–goal lead through much of the final frame.
It was an important way to prevail for the Leafs, who had blown a third–period edge on four occasions in the opening two weeks of the schedule. Another cough up may have sent Babcock over the edge. Instead, beleaguered Frederik Andersen — despite yielding the first and third goals of the match — was solid on a night in which he needn’t be spectacular. The forward line of Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner burned it up; Marner, the flashy freshman, enjoying his finest hour (to date) in a Toronto jersey.
And, what a treat it was — again — to watch 44–year–old Jaromir Jagr saunter about the ice for the visitors. Jagr, barring injury, will shortly move into second place in all–time National Hockey League scoring, behind only Wayne Gretzky. He currently sits third with 1,872 points — 15 in back of second–place Mark Messier.
I was at the Florida–Toronto game with my son… and my trusty NIKON:
LEAFS ROOKIE AUSTON MATTHEWS OBSERVED AT CENTER ICE DURING THE WARM–UP.
THE LEAFS NEW CENTER–ICE LOGO SPARKLED AFTER A PRE–GAME FLOOD.
THE NETMINDERS: FREDERIK ANDERSEN (LEFT) AND 37–YEAR–OLD ROBERTO LUONGO.
THE AGELESS JAGR AWAITED A TEAMMATE DURING A FIRST–PERIOD LINE CHANGE.
IN THE THIRD PERIOD, JAGR GOT AWAY WITH SLEW–FOOTING ANDERSEN. AT THE NEXT WHISTLE, THE FUTURE HALL–OF–FAMER SKATED BACK AND APOLOGIZED TO THE TORONTO GOALIE.
THE SOUTH SIDE OF AIR CANADA CENTRE — SPANNED, AT TOP, BY THE PRESS BOX.
TSN’s UBIQUITOUS CHRIS CUTHBERT — MR. VERSATILITY — CALLED THE PLAY FROM ABOVE.
THOUGH THE MAPLE LEAFS TWICE NEEDED TO REBOUND FROM ONE–GOAL DEFICITS, MIKE BABCOCK’S TEAM HAD A LEG UP ON FLORIDA THROUGH MUCH OF THE GAME.
I TOOK THIS PHOTO AT THE SAME INSTANT THAT ONE OF THE AIR CANADA CENTRE STROBE–LIGHTS FLASHED, AS A PHOTOGRAPHER AT ICE LEVEL LIT UP THE ACTION.
IT WAS ALL IN THE EYES FOR DOUGIE AND DARRYL. AND, THE LAST THREE STANLEY CUP BANNERS.
NEW BANNERS DEPICTING THREE OF THE ALL–TIME MOST QUINTESSENTIAL MAPLE LEAFS.
CENTER ICE — BADLY CARVED LATE IN THE PERIOD.
UNCLE LEO DID HIS THING (LEFT). BOZAK AND JAGR WATCHED A THIRD–PERIOD FACE–OFF.
THE LONE DRAWBACK FOR A CAMERA LENS WHILE SITTING IN SEC. 304 OF THE AIR CANADA CENTRE IS THE PROTECTIVE MESH BEHIND THE WEST GOAL (ABOVE AND BELOW).
THE BOZAK–VAN RIEMSDYK–MARNER LINE DID LOTS OF CELEBRATING…
… AND THE LEAFS FINALLY HUNG ON.