It's been a rough couple of weeks for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They went from a playoff team, to potential playoff team, to an epic late-season collapse that was going to consume everything in its path and leave nothing but a smoldering crater behind.
And then, on Tuesday, there was a brief glimmer of hope.
The Maple Leafs finally ended their season-crushing eight-game losing streak by hanging on -- barely -- to beat the Calgary Flames, 3-2, thanks to a goal from, of all people, David Clarkson. No player had become more synonymous with the disaster that had become the Leafs' season than Clarkson, the front office's prized free agent addition that had scored just four goals in 54 games before Tuesday.
Even better for the Maple Leafs is that they also received a little bit of help around the Eastern Conference. While New Jersey and Columbus each gained a point, both left an additional point on the table by losing in shootouts, while the Washington Capitals were embarrassed on their home ice against the Dallas Stars. Toronto comes out of the night one point out of the final wild card spot. They still have the issue of having fewer games to play than most of their competitors and losing out on the first tiebreaker as well.
Elsewhere around the league, Sidney Crosby became the first (and probably only) player to hit the 100-point mark this season in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, and he was also punched in the face by a linesman in the first period.
All the NHL Scores
Maple Leafs 3, Flames 2
Hurricanes 4, Penguins 1
Stars 5, Capitals 0
Three Things We Learned
1. Martin St. Louis can still score goals
It took a little longer than the New York Rangers had probably hoped, but Martin St. Louis finally scored his first goal with the team on Tuesday night and he did it in a rather unexpected way, finishing a two-on-one odd-man rush with Rick Nash for a shorthanded goal. It gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead, a development really seemed to frustrate former Rangers coach John Tortorella. The win could have been a costly one for the Rangers, however, as defenseman Ryan McDonagh took a high hit from Alex Burrows in the final minute.
2. The Coyotes gave one away
This one could hurt the Phoenix Coyotes. Getting a Winnipeg Jets team that played the night before (and gave up five goals in 23 minutes to lose) on home ice is not the type of game you want to drop when you're fighting for a playoff spot. But that's exactly what the Coyotes did by losing to the Jets, 2-1, in a shootout. The point helps, but this is a game where you absolutely need to get two and with as tight as the race is with the Dallas Stars, this is one that might come back to haunt you.
3. Douglas Murray is going to sit for a long time.
How can he not after this disgusting elbow to the head of Tampa Bay's Michael Kostka?
The one play or moment from Tuesday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
With a playoff spot on the line and playing in their own building the Washington Capitals didn't even show up, getting blown out by the Dallas Stars, 5-0. It was a sloppy, ugly effort that featured numerous mistakes on the power play resulting in shorthanded chances for the Stars (including a Ryan Garbutt shorthanded goal), a goalie switch, and defensive play around the crease that left plenty to be desired. The playoffs? It's not looking promising.
Stat of the Night
The New Jersey Devils scored two shootout goals on Tuesday night, doubling their season total coming into the game (they scored on one of their previous 30 attempts this season). The bad news? They still lost to Buffalo and fell to 0-11 in the shootout this season. Had the Devils won even four of those shootouts (which would still be a pretty bad 4-7 record) they would be sitting in a wild card spot right now. That has to be unbelievably frustrating.
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