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The Maple Leafs pull off a playoff miracle: An explainer for fans as confused as I am

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On Monday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs were part of an epic postseason collapse. A desperate team, already trailing the series, held a three-goal lead midway through the third and was cruising to victory when it all fell apart in utterly stunning fashion. Bad breaks, shaky goaltending, and dumb penalties all combined to open the door, and the result was one of the most heartbreaking losses in recent memory.

So far, no surprises. But here’s the twist: The Leafs won.

I know. I am also completely confused.

I’ve checked and double-checked the box score. I’ve run the numbers, and it keeps coming back with 5 being more than 4. I’m not completely sure that the NHL isn’t still reviewing the overtime goal and about to announce that Alex Kerfoot’s stick was high, but so far so good.

It’s the playoffs, everything is on the line, and the Toronto Maple Leafs… did good?

OK, they weren’t good all game, just like they weren’t in Game 3, but who cares. It’s the playoffs, there are no moral victories. No more style points, as a wise man once said. A win is a win, and this was a win for the ages.

But also, this makes absolutely no sense. And since part of my job is to dig for answers, I’m doing tonight’s reaction column in FAQ style. Let’s see if we can work through this together.


Q: Dude, what the hell was that?

A: I have no idea.

Q: Like… what?

A: WHAT?

Q: (question marks shooting out of head)

A: (exaggerated shrug emoji)

Editor: This isn’t even remotely useful.

A: Give me a break, I have zero recent experience with this sort of thing.

Q: OK, what actually happened?

A: For the half-dozen of you who haven’t already had all the details forced into your head whether you like it or not, here’s a quick summary. The Lightning outplayed the Leafs badly in the first, earning a 2-0 lead. Toronto looked better in the second, but by the time it was over Tampa was up 4-1. That felt like game over, and some of us may or may not have already written most of our “same old Leafs” columns by midway through the third. But Auston Matthews scored twice to give us a game, Morgan Rielly tied it with under four minutes to go, and the Lightning looked shellshocked. The Leafs kept up the pressure in overtime, and William Nylander drew a penalty. That led to this:

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Q: Wait, they called an overtime penalty? Are people going to be mad about that?

A: Probably, because it’s the playoffs. But Mikhail Sergachev basically dove at Nylander’s feet and arm-swiped his legs out, and it took away a strong scoring chance. It was a penalty. Lightning fans can be mad about it if they want because that’s what fans do, but anyone else will be faking it.

Q: So the Leafs didn’t just pull off a major comeback, but… it was 4-1?

A: Yes it was, just like in 2013, as more than a few people have pointed out. Well, not just like 2013, because that collapse in Boston came in Game 7 and ended the series. This one isn’t over yet.

Q: Not technically, but… it’s over, right?

A: I mean this very sincerely and respectfully: Shut up.

Q: Come on, nobody comes back from a collapse like this. The Lightning gave the Leafs their two best punches, lost twice in overtime, and now they look exhausted and defeated. The Leafs have this wrapped up.

A: As Wendel as my witness, I will end you.

Q: Plan the parade?

A: OK, let’s just be clear on this. Leafs fans are thrilled right now. They just witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history, and it was one that flipped all the tired (but accurate) narratives on their head. None of us will sleep for days. What we just watched was amazing, and we’ll tell our grandkids about it someday.

BUT! Not one single Maple Leafs fan thinks this series is over. Literally not one. They might be starting to think that the Leafs have turned a corner, or that things are finally different. They know that the odds when you’re up 3-1 are way better than 2-2 or worse. But every one of us also knows that it takes four wins to end a series, and three is not four, and there are lots of ways this could go wrong. If you meet a Leafs fan who can’t imagine this team still blowing it, be very gentle with them because they are a newborn baby.

Q: Are you Leafs fans always this depressing?

A: Sure are!

Q: So what happens now?

A: There’s an extra day before Game 5, and in theory that maybe hurts the Leafs because they have momentum and the Lightning looked tired as Game 4 went on. But it’s probably for the best as far as the fan base, since it gives everyone a day to just freak out and watch Steve Dangle clips on repeat before settling down and getting back into game mode.

Of course, it also means an extra day for everyone to dig up the old stories and stats. I’ll save you the trouble on the big one: In the Matthews era, the Maple Leafs are 0-for-9 in games where a win would end a series. Two of those losses came last year to Tampa; three of them have been in overtime, literally one goal away. Now they’ll either make it an even dozen, or finally get the win that gets them out of the first round.

Thursday night in Toronto will be something else. It’s going to be loud. It might only be loud for however long it takes for the Lightning to score and make it 1-0, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Q: Don’t you mean “if” we get there?

A: Yeah, sorry. Like I said, I kind of forgot how all this stuff works.

Q: Before we wrap up, do you want to take off the fanboy hat and take any kind of stab at actual objective analysis?

A: Not really, thanks.

Editor: Do it anyway.

A: Fine.

The Leafs got their butts kicked on home ice in Game 1 because they didn’t show up on time, and that could happen again on Thursday. They were outplayed for almost all of Game 3 and at least the first half of Game 4, and probably didn’t deserve to come out of Tampa with both wins. Even Game 2, their one unequivocally good game, came without Victor Hedman playing. The Lightning are proud champions, they’re very good, their key players have another level to get to, and we’re all expecting their best game on Thursday.

And let’s not forget, the Leafs’ big problem over the years has been their almost obsessive need to pat themselves on the back and ease off the gas pedal whenever anything even vaguely good happens, including when they pulled off an equally wild comeback against the Blue Jackets. Now they’re going to hear about how great they are for two days. This isn’t over.

Q: Any last words?

A: Have I mentioned how it isn’t over?

Q: You have.

A: In that case: WHOOOOOOOOOO!

(Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

 

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Tiger Woods had a tough opening round at The 152nd Open Championship

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Tiger Woods encountered difficulties during the opening round of The 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon, finishing with an 8-over-par 79. Despite a promising beginning, including a birdie on the third hole, Woods struggled to find consistency throughout the round. His iron play and putting were particularly problematic, contributing to a series of bogeys and double bogeys.

Woods’ performance saw him slightly above average off the tee and around the green. However, he lost over two strokes to the field in both approach play and putting, ranking near the bottom in these categories. This marks a significant challenge for the 15-time major champion, especially considering the competitive field and the demanding conditions at Royal Troon.

Reflecting on his round, Woods admitted, “I didn’t do a lot of things right today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today. I need to shoot something in the mid-60s tomorrow to get something going on the weekend.” He emphasized the need for a strong performance on Friday to make the cut and remain in contention.

Woods, 48, has shown determination and resilience, competing in all four majors this year for the first time since his serious car accident in 2021. Despite physical limitations, he believes he can still contend for major titles under the right conditions. His performance on Thursday puts him in a challenging position, requiring a significant turnaround in the second round to stay in the tournament.

As Woods prepares for Friday’s round, his focus remains on improving his game and making the cut. Fans and analysts alike will be watching to see if he can achieve the remarkable recovery needed to advance and compete over the weekend. Woods’ journey at The 152nd Open Championship continues to be a testament to his enduring skill and competitive spirit.

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NBA Returns to Montreal with Raptors vs. Wizards Pre-Season Game

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Montreal, QC – The NBA is set to make an exciting return to Montreal. The league announced on Thursday that the Toronto Raptors will face off against the Washington Wizards at the Bell Centre on October 6, marking the 10th edition of the NBA Canada Series.

This annual series has featured 15 teams playing 18 pre-season games across six Canadian cities. Notably, this will be the eighth NBA Canada Series game in Montreal, the highest for any city outside the Raptors’ usual home in Toronto.

Last year, Montreal fans witnessed the Detroit Pistons take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring Canadians Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. The Raptors’ previous game in Montreal was in 2022.

This year’s game will be particularly special as it will showcase several Canadian players. Montreal natives Chris Boucher and Quincy Guerrier are both on the Raptors’ training camp roster. Additionally, Kelly Olynyk and RJ Barrett, who are set to represent Canada at the upcoming Summer Olympics, are also expected to play for the Raptors.

The Wizards bring their own Canadian connection with Kyshawn George, selected in this year’s NBA Draft. George, born in Switzerland, is the son of Montreal’s Deon George, a former member of Canada’s men’s basketball team.

The October 6 game will cap off the Raptors’ Montreal-based training camp, promising an exciting end to their preparations.

For more updates and coverage on the NBA Canada Series, visit Canada News Media

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Fafa Picault Leads Vancouver Whitecaps to Victory Over Sporting Kansas City

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Vancouver, BCFafa Picault emerged as the hero off the bench, scoring in the second half to secure a 2-1 victory for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

The Whitecaps (11-7-5) dominated the first half, with two goals being disallowed due to offside calls. Vancouver’s breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Kansas City defender Robert Valoder accidentally scored an own goal, giving the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead.

Sporting Kansas City (6-14-5) showed more vigor in the second half, equalizing in the 69th minute with a goal from Willy Agada. However, Picault’s decisive goal in the 76th minute ensured the Whitecaps extended their unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer (MLS) to five games (4-0-1).

Yohei Takaoka delivered an outstanding performance with 16 saves for Vancouver, while Tim Melia made 12 stops for Kansas City, whose three-game winning streak came to an end.

First Half Dominance

The Whitecaps were aggressive from the start, creating several early scoring opportunities. Brian White nearly scored with a header in the seventh minute, but Valoder cleared it off the goal line.

Ali Ahmed had a notable moment in the 27th minute, maneuvering past defenders to set up White for a goal that was disallowed due to offside. The Whitecaps’ pressure paid off in the 34th minute when Valoder deflected the ball into his own net, attempting to intercept a pass from Ryan Gauld to White.

Ahmed seemed poised to increase Vancouver’s lead eight minutes later, but his goal was also ruled offside. Despite these setbacks, Vancouver outshot Kansas City 9-2 in the first half.

Kansas City’s Resurgence

Sporting Kansas City made three substitutions at halftime, revitalizing their performance. Stefan Afrifa, substituting for Alenis Vargas, struck the crossbar in the 63rd minute, and Daniel Salloi’s follow-up shot was expertly saved by Takaoka.

Kansas City equalized six minutes later when Agada capitalized on a rebound after Takaoka’s save, slotting the ball into an open net.

Picault’s Winning Goal

The Whitecaps regained the lead in the 76th minute through Picault’s sixth goal of the season. Sebastian Berhalter, who replaced Ryan Raposo in the 67th minute, delivered a perfect cross to Picault, who headed it past Melia to make it 2-1.

Kansas City had a chance to level the score in injury time, but Erik Thommy’s free kick went over the bar following a foul by Mathias Laborda.

The victory solidifies the Whitecaps’ position as a formidable team in the MLS, with Picault’s performance highlighting their depth and resilience.

Stay tuned for more updates and coverage on the Vancouver Whitecaps at Canada News Media.

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