The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks put on an absolutely barn burner on Sunday night, although I doubt the goaltending coaches on either team found the game as thrilling as the fans in attendance and watching at home did.
The games first period provided a perfect microcosm of how the remainder of the game would go when the Chicago Blackhawks jumped out to an early lead. The Blackhawks scored back to back goals to start the game only to see the Maple Leafs quickly bounce back with a pair of back to back goals of their own, setting the tone for the next 2 periods.
After it was all said and done the 2 sides had racked up a total of 13 goals including a hat trick from Toronto Maple Leafs star forward John Tavares and we needed overtime to determine a winner. It was a exciting game from the opening whistle right up until the final horn but there is no question that the highlight of the evening was the duel that occurred between Maple Leafs' star Auston Matthews and Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane during the final minutes of the game's third period.
With less than a 1:30 left on the clock in the third period the Blackhawks found themselves down by a score of 5 to 4 and they were in desperate need of a life line. They got that life line in the form of a goal from Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after the Blackhawks had pulled Cam Ward out of the net in order to get 6 skaters on the ice. As you would expect the United Center erupted following Kanes goal and it seemed like we were destined to see overtime with the score all tied up at 5 goals a piece.
Auston Matthews however had some different ideas and instead of letting the game head to overtime he responded with a goal of his own just over 20 seconds later after the goal from Kane. This time the goal appeared to be a dagger to the heart of the Chicago Blackhawks and Matthews was quick to raise his open hand to his ear in a mock gesture of listening to the crowd. The building of course had gone largely silent except for the cheers of a smattering of Leafs' fans that had traveled to Chicago for the game, but it would not be long before they erupted into cheers once again.
A little over 30 seconds after the Matthews goal, roughly a minute after his previous goal in the period, Patrick Kane responded with yet another tally, this time tying the game up at 6 goals a piece. The best part of Kane's goal however was the celly that followed, Kane raised his hand to his ear in a deliberate attempt to mock Auston Matthews, and Matthews' reaction indicated that he was well aware of it. Matthews even admitted as much after the game.
"I just showed a little emotion ... He's obviously a premiere player in this league & somebody I look up to, one of my favourite players growing up watching. When that happens you just have to sit back & laugh," said Matthews.
This of course was all in good fun, Matthews, Tavares and Kane all train together in the offseason and by all accounts they are on friendly terms, something the smile on Matthews' face when he saw Kane's celly would seem to support.