There are tough ways to lose hockey games, and then there’s whatever just happened to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Monday's game against the Arizona Coyotes had a wild finish to say the least, and was a game sure to go down in Leafs lore as one of their finest duds.
Despite sleepwalking their way to a 2-0 deficit to the lowly Coyotes through two and a half periods, the Maple Leafs found their legs late, notching a pair of goals from William Nylander and Mitch Marner to tie the game.
That’s when all hell broke loose and things began to go haywire for the Buds.
A brutal interference penalty by Calle Jarnkrok kicked off the chaos, as the Maple Leafs winger was sent to the box with just 2:05 remaining in the game.
From there, while on the penalty kill, the Maple Leafs did what they do best — collapse with the stakes at their highest. Justin Holl was the culprit in this instance, with what can only be described as one of the most eye-poppingly brutal giveaways you may ever see, providing Arizona a late 3-2 cushion.
Down and out, fans voiced their displeasure with raucous boos, until once again, the absolute tomfoolery that is the Maple Leafs struck again. With just 39 seconds left in the game, Alex Kerfoot managed to tie things up just 54 seconds later. Or so viewers thought.
As it turned out, an improbable hand pass call on Morgan Rielly would wipe out the Kerfoot tally and seal the Maple Leafs' fate. The Coyotes would add an empty net goal to secure the improbable victory as dramatic underdogs, while keeping their point streak in Toronto, spanning 20 years, alive.
Leafs tie the game in the dying seconds but it gets overturned for a “hand pass” 😬 pic.twitter.com/iiYYsz2J7b
— Gino Hard (@Ginohard_) October 18, 2022
The call — which some Leafs fans argued was incorrect — along with the abhorrent result, left Maple Leafs Twitter in an all-too-familiar state of distress and despair that only the most jaded of fan bases can eloquently express.
If this team is so mentally weak that having possession for 90 seconds and not even scoring during it is enough to bore them into thinking the game is already won, then I don't think whatever is wrong with them is fixable. https://t.co/yePYiMk7e9
— Filipe Dimas (@FilipeDimas) October 18, 2022
— vrover (@vroverr) October 18, 2022
Justin Holl either has a horrendous defensive lapse that costs his team the game or scores the game-winner in dramatic fashion. There's no in-between
— Michael (@TheLeafsIMO) October 18, 2022
Awful NHL teams when they play the Toronto maple leafs pic.twitter.com/Gax87yWlQO
— pain (@16tobeijing) October 18, 2022
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was none too pleased with the result, and wasn’t pulling any punches during his postgame press conference.
“The difference between us and Arizona is that we have elite players,” he said. “Our elite players didn't play like elite players tonight."
Following the loss, the Maple Leafs own a middling 2-2-0 record on the season. Perhaps far more disheartening is their two losses have come against the 31st- and 32nd-ranked teams from last season in the Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens.
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