Game 8: Colton Orr Interferes With The Losing Streak
Winning isn't always pretty.
But winning is winning. So while last night's 3-1 victory over the livid Panthers was punctuated by unsightly playmaking and gruesome grinding, the Leafs now have 5 wins, 11 points and a share of top spot in the East, all of which looks very good.
I watched last night's game from Seat 8 in Row 5 of Section 107. My friend Angus Frame, vice-president of digital media at the Globe and Mail, was kind enough to let me ride shotgun with his job perk.
"How often do you get these damn seats?" I asked, staring with disbelief at the $226 price on my stub.
"Just a few times each year," Angus replied. "Not a bad view, huh?"
It's hard to appreciate how big, fast and strong professional hockey players are until they are flying past your chin and rattling the glass inches from your eardrums. The closer you are to the ice the smaller it seems. The fine details are amazing. (At short range, for example, Mike Brown's Fu Manchu looks like it’s... ALIVE!)
Anyway, as we bumped elbows with the Platinum high-rollers, the Leafs and Panthers spent most of the first period chasing after the puck the way paparazzi chase after Olsen twins at LAX.
The play was fast but jarring, fluid but disorienting. It was as if both teams took a blood oath before the national anthems to not create any real scoring chances. Outside the ACC, they were calling for a "weather bomb." Inside, there were no explosions.
Then at 19:19 of the first, finally, a reason to cheer.
On the power play, Tyler Bozak sailed through the slot, dropped to one knee like Steven Stamkos and flipped the puck into an unguarded net. This happened immediately after Nikolai Kulemin was sent in alone, courtesy of an up-the-middle, laser-beam pass from Dion Phaneuf.
The Panthers scored a power play goal to even matters in the second. And that's where things stood until The Controversy.
Now, to be fair, I don't know what Colton Orr was thinking at 11:02 of the third.
Was he trying to save Scott Clemmensen from a runaway Zamboni nobody else could see? Was he hoping to get a piggyback ride from the Florida goalie after a long shift? Was he suddenly overcome with the urge to re-enact scenes from WrestleMania?
Whatever his reasons, Orr wandered out from behind the net, snuck up behind Clemmensen like a practical joker and helpfully shoved him out of the way just as Tim Brent was firing the puck.
In a split second, the blindsided Clemmensen hit the ice like a sack of wet cement. Colton tumbled over him and was momentarily frozen in the air like that other Orr in this iconic image. Most important: The puck deflected off his skate and bulged the twine.
Sure, the goal was as illegal as a three-dollar bill. But it counted.
The Leafs added an insurance marker with a few minutes left after Phil Kessel gobbled up the puck, turned on the rocket thrusters and beat Clemmensen who, at that point, was probably just glad a banner hadn't cascaded down from the rafters and covered his mask.
It was a beautiful goal on a mostly ugly night. But winning is winning and now the Leafs head to Boston tomorrow without the angst of a losing streak.
PHOTO: LUCAS OLENIUK/TORONTO STAR