Even though we are less than a week into the the 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season I feel quite confident in stating that the Sunday night match up between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks will go down as one of the very best games of the season.
It was an incredible back and forth affair from the game's opening period in which the Blackhawks jumped out to an early two goal lead by scoring two back to back goals against a Leafs' team that came out of the gate looking a little flat. Thankfully for the Leafs though both star forward Auston Matthews and forward Kaperi Kapanen were not about to go down without a fight and the two men connected twice in the latter half of the first period to tie the score up at 2 goals a piece headed into the first intermission.
In spite of the four goals allowed in the first period both teams continued to play a fairly loose style of hockey and that resulted in 8 more goals for both the Maple Leafs and the Blackhawks, including a hat trick for star forward John Tavares the first of his career as a Leaf. The game was an absolute barn burner with every lead eventually being closed up by the opposition, and that included an incredible sequence at the end of the game courtesy of both Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and the aforementioned Auston Matthews.
With under a minute and a half left to play in the third period Matthews recorded Toronto's 6th goal of the game, a goal that he had to believe would be the eventual game winner. Matthews put his hand up to his ear to indicate that he had just silenced the crowd at the United Center, but Patrick Kane was not about to let that slide. Kane responded with a goal of his own just a few seconds later and when he put the puck in the back of the net he sent a clear and rather direct message the young Leafs forward. In a mockery of the celly that Matthews had just performed Kane raised his own hand to his ear and looked towards the Leafs' bench as he did it.
Matthews, to his credit, cracked a smile on the bench and it seemed like just good natured fun between two guys who train together in the offseason and two guys who are believed to be relatively close friends. In spite of their history however and in spite of their offseason connection to the same skills coach, it sounds like for Patrick Kane it may have been about more than just the joke. Kane commented after the game that he was not happy about the celly from Matthews in the first place and that's why he eventually copied him.
"That's like entertainment right there. I wasn't really happy when he did it, so it was nice to get a chance to score and do it back to him."
I agree with Kane here, I'd love to see more of this.