TORONTO – Mike Babcock sees no use in talking to Kasperi Kapanen tonight.
Not after the infuriated winger blew his composure and committed a mental gaffe significant enough to cost the Toronto Maple Leafs a perfect record and what could become a valuable standings point against an Atlantic Division rival.
"He’s going to have enough people talking to him," said Babcock, after watching his club get bucked by an unhinged seesaw of a game. "He’ll probably get the message pretty good, I’d imagine."
To his credit, Kapanen faced the music in those gutting moments after the Leafs’ 6-5 shootout loss to the better-rested Montreal Canadiens, who deserve full marks for not folding when falling behind 4-1 to an offensive juggernaut with less than 15 minutes to go.
It sure looked like hockey’s most explosive offence had everything under control Saturday. Until suddenly, bizarrely, it all detonated into shards.
Quick strikes by Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher sparked a Habs’ late rally, chopping Toronto’s lead to just one.
Then, killing a critical penalty, Kapanen drifted out the point when a Jeff Petry blast snapped his stick in half. The fiery Finn lost his cool and whipped his busted graphite shaft at the blade of Petry, who had regained control of the puck at the Leafs’ blue line.
"I was getting a little tired, a little aggravated and I broke my stick, which isn’t going to help us on the PK, so I threw it that way," explained Kapanen, humbled. "I just kinda threw my stick that way and it hit him, and I guess you get a penalty shot for that. I take full responsibility for my actions."
Petry, a defenceman, was awarded just the second penalty shot of his career — and he beat backup goalie Michael Hutchinson to tie the game.
In a testament to how rare this punishment is, the officials needed to convene quite a while, uncertain if any Canadien could take the penalty shot or if it had to be Petry. The delay threw Hutchinson for a bit of a loop.
"I feel bad about it. Everybody knows it’s a big mistake on my part. If I knew that rule existed," Kapanen said, "I wouldn’t have done that. I’ve never seen that situation before.
"That’s my fault."
#Habs defeat the Leafs after facing a 3-goal deficit for the first time since January 27, 1990
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) October 6, 2019
The unravelling continued. Phillip Danault scored next to give the visitors a lead.
For the Habs, four unanswered goals in under 10 minutes.
For the Leafs, a crack in composure, a failure to stomp the throat.
"It definitely turned into an interesting third period," Hutchinson understated.
Things got more interesting when a certain mustachioed franchise player gave Toronto (and, by association, Kapanen) a chance at redemption, beating Carey Price with a mere 75 ticks on the clock.
Auston Matthews—part Harlem Globetrotter, part marksman—tied the thriller with his second on the night and his 12th in 12 career contests versus Montreal. (If you count back to his spectacular pre-season, Matthews will carry a seven-game goal streak into Monday’s date with the Blues.)
"I really don’t know anyone who has that type of shot," John Tavares said. "I don’t know what goalie is going to stop it."
Matthews’ NHL-leading fifth snipe on the season treated the sold-out barn to an edge-of-your-seat overtime that featured a Max Domi crossbar and a Tavares breakaway.
Paul Byron potted the shootout winner, while Price shut the door, sucking out whatever air remained in Scotiabank Arena.
"That’s a game we’ve got to put away for sure," Tavares said. "It’s going to leave a sour taste."
Surely, the familiar questions about Toronto’s undisciplined defensive-zone play and goaltending depth will bubble up, with the Leafs getting outshot 21-11 after the second period.
"Actually, I felt bad for Hutch because, to me, we hung him out to dry, and I thought Hutch had done a good enough job," Babcock said. "The way I look at it is, we had three games in four nights, and we knew going in this was going to be a grind. We got five out of six points."
And an ugly, jagged reminder that you just don’t throw a broken stick—no matter how fatigued or infuriated.
"I’ve never seen it by anybody, ever," Babcock said. "I’m sure he feels bad and would like to have it back. The thing about it, you can’t get it back. We’ve all got to learn from it.
"Lessons are important during the year, and we got one."
#gohabsgo get the W on this wild Saturday night in the & each tallying 1& 1. w/ 3pt night(1,2). getting his 1st of the year. w/ a big PS . Adding s are (2)&(1). w/ the lone shootout .w/ 32svs & sealing the deal in the Shootout! pic.twitter.com/9vmIicXwbr
— Keith Kinkaid (@Blockaid1) October 6, 2019