Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t mince words postgame.
“I feel like the game just got away from us right from the start,” he said matter-of-factly after his team fell apart Thursday night. “I didn’t like our game in the first period. I didn’t like our game at 1-0. I didn’t like our game at 2-0, 3-0. We just got what we deserved today.
“I thought we reverted back to a lot of really bad habits. We didn’t have any real purpose or plan to our game today. We were just making it up as we go along. We get what we deserved.”
The Maple Leafs were a period away, in fact less than 13 minutes away, from taking a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NHL qualifying round series vs. the Blue Jackets.
Instead, they left the rink 4-3 overtime losers despite taking a 3-0 lead on rookie Nick Robertson’s first NHL goal. Columbus’ Pierre-Luc Dubois capped off a hat trick by scoring the game-winner with under two minutes left in the extra session.
Following up a dominating Game 2 win with a monumental collapse in Game 3 is “tough to explain,” as Keefe noted, but as he added, “every day’s a new day.” And Friday is just that, coupled with the fact that it’s also a game day. His team will have to quickly forget what occurred on the ice at Scotiabank Arena as it faces elimination less than 24 hours later (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC).
“It’s over now,” said Keefe, already looking ahead. “We’ve got to regroup here. This is what playoff hockey is all about: the emotion, the emotions, the swings of momentum. It’s the best part of playoffs here. So a chance to regroup and come back at it tomorrow and be a better version of ourselves than we were today.”
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