CHICAGO -- When a team is struggling on the ice, sometimes it's the chatter in the room that can help spark a turnaround.
The Toronto Maple Leafs snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-2 overtime victory against the winless Chicago Blackhawks.
The tension was palpable.
After an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the tone and mood of the team turned dour. Press conferences with the media felt like counselling sessions where the players and head coach Sheldon Keefe conjured up ways to push positivity.
They ended up getting what they needed on Wednesday, but it didn't look like it was going to go that way at the start.
The Maple Leafs gave up many odd-man rushes and the Blackhawks took advantage with a pair of goals in the first period.
A 2-0 deficit early and it felt like it was going to be one of those nights for the Maple Leafs.
But the players became vocal. Things were said and one of Toronto's most consistent players revealed the nuts and bolts of it.
"Time to wake up. Like stop feeling sorry for ourselves," William Nylander said of the talk. "Nobody's going to get us out of this, it's only the guys in the locker room.
"We're not playing to where we can play and I mean that was just what was being said that we needed to up the battle. And I mean, that's the only way we're going to get out of this. So start."
The Maple Leafs began to generate some offense. John Tavares cut Chicago's lead with a nifty backhand shot that beat Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen that made it 2-1 at 6:14 of the second period. David Kampf, playing in his first game against his former team, scored a backhander of his own at 12:31 of the third period that tied the game 2-2.
Still, the Blackhawks were generating many free-flowing chances at the net, and goaltender Jack Campbell made several saves to keep his team in the game.
"He’s done a lot for this team," Mitch Marner said. "He’s the backbone right now.”
Campbell finished the night with 27 saves and as he has known to be, was critical of himself for the two goals he gave up. But he along with Nylander have been the two most consistent Maple Leafs when it comes to their play through eight games.
Nylander, picking up from his steady game he displayed last post-season, scored the winning goal on a breakaway to ice the win for Toronto.
"Mentally, it's been a lot, so to get two points going home feels good for sure," Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "There's a lot of things we still need to clean up and do a lot better than we did tonight."
The Maple Leafs still have defensive issues. Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl didn't look good on both of Chicago's goals for. But the team pushed back with the right message and perhaps they can build of it.
But for now, they bought some time. And more importantly, they projected to those outside that they are a group that is intent to getting back to where they were.
Especially with the messaging in the first period.
Keefe, who keeps a fair distance away from the room during the intermissions did catch the tail end of some of the comments that were being made.
"It just shows me that our guys care, they haven't given up on each other or anything like that," Keefe said. "They want to get this right."
Although he hasn't scored a goal this season, Marner was in better spirits. He initially had an assist on both Toronto goals but later had his assist on Kampf's goal removed.
A rough season that has now includes some broken teeth. But a smiling Marner nonetheless.
Definitely feels good to smile. Enjoy this moment for now, move on to Saturday. Make sure we're ready to go."