TORONTO – Sometimes, as the Toronto Maple Leafs figured out Friday night, scoreboard-watching is fun.
As Nazem Kadri watched the Columbus Blue Jackets give up a goal to the Chicago Blackhawks with 3.7 seconds left to lose 4-3, he couldn’t help but get excited that the team the Leafs are chasing lost at least one valuable point.
“I did fist pump one or two times,” Kadri said. “That’s the bounce we need, and our chances are only going to increase if that keeps on happening.”
Of course, the Leafs know they still have to win their own games if they’re to grab the Eastern Conference’s second and final wild-card spot. But getting some help isn’t something they’ll turn down.
“Unfortunately we’ve put ourselves in a situation where we’re depending on other teams a little bit,” defenceman Cody Franson said. “We’re trying to take care of our own business, but when things happen the way you’re hoping for, obviously you get a little passionate about it.”
Defenceman Morgan Rielly watched the end of the Blue Jackets’ game at home with roommate Jake Gardiner. The Vancouver native and Canucks fan hated the Blackhawks growing up but was “cheering for them (Friday night), and they came through.”
The loss kept Columbus at 85 points, one ahead of the Leafs, who host the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. The Blue Jackets have five games left to Toronto’s four, but losing to the Blackhawks hurt their chances—at least slightly.
And that, coupled with Toronto’s two-game win streak, gave players in the home locker room at Air Canada Centre some added belief they can pull this off.
“I think it helps when we’re starting to actually get some good bounces here with the goal against Calgary when the guy kicked it in his own net and then the Hawks scoring late last night,” Rielly said. “I think that might be a turn of the tide a little bit, so hopefully we can just try to take advantage of that and try to play good hockey here.”
Coach Randy Carlyle downplayed the excitement about the Blue Jackets’ stunning, last-minute loss.
“We can’t control what other people are doing,” Carlyle said. “Obviously we’ll take that result versus the other result.
“We don’t want to get caught up too much in what other teams are doing. We want to make sure that our focus is totally 110 per cent on what we’re doing and what we have to do to give ourselves a chance.”
To give themselves a realistic chance at a second straight playoff appearance, the Leafs must more than likely win their final four games: Saturday against the Jets, Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning, Thursday at the Florida Panthers and then a week from now at the Ottawa Senators.
They’ll have to do so without No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who is out a minimum of three weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. James Reimer starts in goal against Winnipeg, and Drew MacIntyre was recalled on an emergency basis from the AHL Marlies to back him up.
Winger Joffrey Lupul (lower-body injury) is expected to be a game-time decision after taking part in the morning skate and receiving treatment, according to Carlyle. The coach also believes the Leafs will have centre Dave Bolland against the Jets.
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