For a team that exits the 2010s without a single playoff series victory, there is no shortage of memorable Toronto Maple Leafs moments from the past decade — good, bad and ugly.
From Phil Kessel swinging a lightsaber at big John Scott, Curtis McElhinney stoning Sidney Crosby at the doorstep, the kids making the post-season ahead of schedule, John Tavares returning home to his bed-sheets squad and Auston Matthews sniping the Centennial Classic winner with a forgiving Dave Keon in the house, the memories are indelible and plentiful.
Here’s our top three.
4-1 is the most dangerous lead in sports • May 13, 2013
The most memorable Maple Leafs moment of the decade is a painful one, because of course it is. For 52 years, Toronto’s hockey narrative has been an exercise in misery, broken up by the odd bout with devastating disappointment.
When Nazem Kadri scored 5:29 into the third period on that night of May 13, 2013, giving Toronto a 4-1(!) lead over the Boston Bruins, Maple Leaf Square partied like Round 2 was reality.
Cue the greatest comeback/collapse in Game 7 NHL history.
Nathan Horton scores at 9:18. The Bruins pull Tuukka Rask with two minutes left. Toronto can’t hit the open net. Milan Lucic scores with the sixth attacker on the ice at 18:38. Patrice Bergeron ties it with 51 seconds on the clock, and again in overtime — thrusting a goalie (James Reimer, under siege), an organization and a city into a state of shock.
James Reimer face-down on the ice after 2013 5-4 BOS OT playoff loss – burned into my mind pic.twitter.com/5cvtAgeVVt
— Acton Clarkin (@actonhere) December 22, 2019
So, when the Leafs later gave away three one-goal leads to the Bruins to squander Game 7 at TD Garden in 2018, or failed to stomp the throat in either Game 6 or Game 7 in the 2019 rematch, those failures feel quaint by comparison.
“We were undocking from the space station and returning to Earth during that final game of that series,” Canadian astronaut and noted Leafs fan Chris Hadfield told The Toronto Star.
“While I was coming down in flames, the Leafs were going down in flames too, unfortunately.”
Auston Matthews hits ’em with the four • Oct. 12, 2016
The scorched-earth rebuild, the trading away of sniper extraordinaire Phil Kessel and miscast captain Dion Phaneuf, the washing the sins of Salutegate, that bizzaro Peter Horachek era, the expertly executed tank campaign and president Brendan Shanahan holding a No. 1 placard at the finale of the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery while the most expensive head coach in hockey history jumped for joy in his living room… it all made sense on Opening Night of the Auston Matthews era.
The soon-to-be Calder Trophy winner scored not once, twice or thrice but four times in his NHL debut as superstars from around the league began tuning in and tweeting their amazement at the clinic in Kanata.
“It was pretty surreal,” Matthews said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
“That’s the best night we’ve had since I’ve been here by 10 miles, not even close,” former coach Mike Babcock said. “Now we have an opportunity.”
And an entire nation of Leafs fans felt the same.
In a perfectly Leafian twist, it was Ottawa’s Kyle Turris — Matthews’ man, he’d admit — who scored the overtime winner for the Senators, but for once there was hope. A franchise centre had arrived, with a bang. Hey, how many single regular-season hockey games spawn their own rap songs?
Tyler Bozak scores in a snow globe • Jan. 1, 2014
The spectacle was a long time coming — a lockout put the kibosh on the 2013 Winter Classic — but totally worth the wait… and the white-knuckle drive across Highway 401.
The historic outdoor matinee at Ann Arbour’s Michigan Stadium packed 105,491 Detroit Red Wings and Maple Leafs fans into the Big House, warmed them with cold domestic beer and sprinkled their toques with snowflakes the size of toonies. Best of all, some marketing wizard dreamed the idea of selling half the building’s seats to Toronto supporters and the other half to Detroit, creating a red-versus-blue battle line in the stands.
Aesthetic bonus: Both teams wore darks.
That the game itself was a tight affair with three lead changes and a back-and-forth shootout was a cherry on top of the snow globe. Tyler Bozak capped off the victory by sniping low-blocker on Jimmy Howard, prompting Babcock to crown the day “a home run for hockey.”
“Having 105,000 people screaming and yelling for us is really amazing,” Bozak said. “As hockey players, we’re never going to forget that.”