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Blackhawks fall 7-6 to Maple Leafs in wild OT thriller

Three goals in the final 84 seconds of regulation were just part of a wild night in Chicago.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest, folks: I don’t know how to comprehend everything we witnessed Sunday night. If you missed the broadcast, I’m not sure my words are going to do justice for the sheer insanity this game contained.

But let’s give it a shot, anyway.

In one of the craziest regular season games in recent memory, the Chicago Blackhawks lost 7-6 in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center.

It started innocent enough, with the teams trading two goals in the first period (including a beauty of a passing play between Duncan Keith, Dominik Kahun and Alex DeBrincat) and then Toronto pulled ahead for a 4-3 advantage to start the third period.

Then, this hockey game started venturing into the realm of the absurd.

Just 2:20 into the third period, Brandon Manning — the much-maligned free agent signing — tied the game 4-4 with a bullet of a slapshot.

About seven minutes later, John Tavares completed his hat trick with an unbelievable pick of the puck out of mid-air before ripping a shot past Blackhawks goalie Cam Ward.

Then, this hockey game lost all of its attachment to reality.

With the Blackhawks’ net empty, Patrick Kane found some open space on the right side and one-timed a puck past Elmhurst native Garrett Sparks to tie the game 5-5.

Then Auston Matthews put Toronto back in front 22 seconds later.

Then Kane scored, again, just 33 seconds after Matthews put Toronto up 6-5.

Perhaps even better than the goals were the dueling celebrations by Kane and Matthews, who trained together in the offseason.

Somehow, Toronto and Chicago managed to keep the puck out of their respective nets in the final 29 seconds to send the game into overtime. Then Morgan Rielly made it a Toronto victory with a goal just 19 seconds into the extra session.

Got all that? Good. On to the thoughts.

3 Thoughts

The power play. Oh, the power play.

It’s hard to find a new way to describe the same old frustration that’s come with watching the Blackhawks in this young season and the last few: a dreadful, terrible, demoralizing power play. A four-minute advantage in the second period yielded zero shots on goal and zapped the energy out of the United Center crowd. It’s unfathomable that a team with this kind of offensive firepower always struggles on the power play and, yet, here we are.

This is what’s going to happen with Cam Ward

First off, starting a 34-year-old goalie for the second night in a row when the Blackhawks do have another living, breathing goalie on the roster feels like a strange decision by coach Joel Quenneville. Anton Forsberg probaby should’ve started this game. It almost raises questions about whether or not Forsberg is fully recovered from the morning skate incident last Thursday that required Collin Delia to be recalled from Rockford for the season opener.

But in the last two games, Ward played well enough for the Blackhawks to win and they did. On Sunday night, he did not, and they lost. It feels like Ward’s ceiling as a goaltender is “playing well enough to win.” If Chicago’s offense continues pouring in goals like this, then the Blackhawks will be just fine until Corey Crawford returns.

And when Crawford returns?

Yeah ... that could be a lot of fun.

One tweet to summarize the first three games of the season

But I hope you enjoyed that game. Even though Chicago ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, that’s as entertaining of a regular season hockey game as you’ll ever see.

3 Stars

  1. John Tavares (TOR) — 3 goals
  2. Auston Matthews (TOR) — 2 goals, 2 assists
  3. Patrick Kane (CHI) — 2 goals