This is the second half of the Top 20 Leaf Moments of the Decade list. If you missed it, the first part of the list can be found here.
10. Stumpy wins it - April 22, 2000
Game Five of the 2000 first round series between Ottawa and Toronto was a strange one. The first 55 minutes were deadly dull, with the Leafs mailing in a half-hearted effort and the Senators nursing a 1-0 lead by playing a perfect (i.e. boring) road game.
Then Steve Thomas scored with five minutes left to tie it. And then all hell broke loose. The two teams turned up the tempo to close out the third period, and then went on to play an end-to-end overtime period that featured a dozen scoring chances.
That's when the Leafs unveiled one of the most dastardly trick plays in recent sports history: Sergei Berezin passing.
As an added bonus, Thomas and Berezin reacted to the game winning goal by performing a WWE-style double clothesline on each other.
9. PING! - April 13, 2001
You already know what goal it is just from the headline, don't you?
In the four-pack of Leaf playoff wins over the Senators, the 2001 series was actually the only one where the Senators had home ice advantage. Well, not so much "home ice advantage", since that implies that you get to play some games in front of fans that are actually cheering for you. But the Senators were the #2 seed in the East that year, and were expected to beat the lowly #7 seed Leafs.
Didn't happen. In fact, it didn't come remotely close to happening, as Curtis Joseph shut out the Senators in each of the first two games and the Leafs completed a four-game sweep back in Toronto (giving the Senators the distinction of not scoring a single post-season goal in their own arena). And it all started with a tight Game One that was tied 0-0 midway through the first overtime.
Don't worry, Sens fans. There's brighter days ahead in this rivalry. (I'm sorry? What's that? Oh. I've just been informed that there are, in fact, not brighter days ahead.)
8. Tie Domi fights a Flyer fan in the penalty box - March 29, 2001
I wrote about this one back in September as part of the Top 10 Leaf Fights of All-Time post. I included a transcript of what's going through this Flyer fan's mind:
"Hey, Domi just sprayed water on me, which technically ends my month-long streak of not bathing! I think I'll bang on the glass and try to look tough when I know he can't reach me. Hm, I wonder if this glass can support 300 lbs of cheesesteak and loneliness? No, apparently it can not. Oh god, I'm going to die. Also, I just soiled myself on national television. Go Flyers!"
Domi never really got the credit he deserved here. While he did enough to defend himself, he somehow resisted the urge to go Rob Ray on the poor slob. And that should count for something, shouldn't it?
By the way, how perfect is the "Dunkin Donuts" ad placement in the penalty box?
7. Sundin's milestones - October 14, 2006 and October 11, 2007
Mats Sundin was so good that he actually broke Darryl Sittler's all-time Leafs scoring record twice in the same game. He was credited with a second period assist against the Islanders and held the record for about a half hour before officials revoked the point (Sundin hadn't actually touched the puck).
No problem. Sundin came out in third period and scored a goal of his own. That gave him 390 goals and 917 points as a Leaf -- breaking both of Sittler's franchise records with one shot.
While the moment was clearly important in terms of history, the goal came in the late stages of a blowout against the Islanders and was a fluke shot that wasn't really worthy of the moment. Then again, what's the guy supposed to do for a major milestone? Score a short-handed overtime hat trick goal on Hockey Night in Canada? Fine, if you insist:
(And in case you're wondering, I combined these two moments because they both represent similarly memorable milestones in Sundin's great career, and certainly not because I realized I still had 11 moments that needed to fit into a top 10 list. I don't know why you'd even think that. Look, why are we arguing? Let's change the subject: Hey, who wants to see a Finnish guy get his brains scrambled?)
6. Darcy Tucker destroys Sami Kapanen - May 4, 2004
This hit from the 2004 playoffs was undoubtedly the most vicious hit of the decade by a Maple Leaf, and quite possibly by any NHL player, period. Kapanen was so decimated by the impact that officials immediately whistled the play dead, and the rest of the shift never happened. Did you hear me? THE REST OF THE SHIFT NEVER HAPPENED!
No penalty was called on the play, although technically you could make a case for charging, boarding, and second degree manslaughter. The league reviewed the hit, and promptly suspended the Maple Leafs from ever participating in the playoffs again.
Um... is that guy in the front row wearing a bathing cap,a helmet, or amateur wrestling headgear?
5. Gary Roberts scores in triple overtime - May 4, 2002
Hey look, the Leafs and Senators seem to be involved in some sort of crucial post-season game. I wonder how this will turn out?
Wade Redden with his finger up his nose still makes me laugh every single time.
Let's get this out of the way first: I wasn't a fan of the way Mats Sundin left Toronto. I stand by that. But that's history now.
But when Sundin made his return to Toronto as a member of the Canucks, everyone got it right. The Leafs, who honored their former-captain with a classy video. The fans, who gave him a loud and long ovation. The players, who refused to take the faceoff until Sundin had had his moment. And finally Sundin himself, who composed himself (barely) and then went on to score the shootout winner.
The only way this moment could have been better would have been if the fans had had the chance to thank Sundin when he was still wearing a Leafs uniform. Speaking of which...
3. Thank You Wendel - April 27, 2000
While you don't really associate Clark with the current decade, his last stint with the Leafs came at the end of the 1999-2000 season. He played 20 mostly forgettable regular season games and was scratched for the team's first playoff games. Pat Quinn inserted Clark into the lineup midway through the first round, and he scored the series-clinching goal against the Senators.
And then game one against the Devils:
In the final minutes of Game Six of the 2002 Conference Finals, the Leafs found themselves trailing Carolina 1-0. For reasons nobody has ever been able to fully explain, Arturs Irbe was unbeatable in this series, and the Hurricanes were choking the life out of the Leafs on their home ice. As the seconds ticked down, the Leafs' miracle playoff run seemed doomed.
Well, not so fast.
This goal is notable for being the only known example of that horrible "behind-the-net" camera view that directors fell in love with in the first half of the decade actually working. It also gave us not only a memorable Bob Cole call ("... and the place goes crazy!") but also a legendary Joe Bowen meltdown that included him infamously screaming "You talk about heart and dedication!"
It all ended up being futile, of course. The Hurricanes won in overtime, eliminating the Leafs from a series they absolutely should have won. But for a few seconds at least, I doubt there was a goal during the decade that had Leaf fans screaming any louder.
1. Lalime's meltdown - April 20, 2004
It's probably fair to say that by the time the Leafs and Senators met in a 2004 first round series, the two teams hated each other. The Leafs were the corporate behemoth that kept kicking the smaller kids around the playground. The Senators were the small-market underdogs who were supposed to be scrappy and valiant but usually just wound up wiping snot from their noses while the sobbed about being picked on.
So with Daniel Alfredsson guaranteeing victory, Eugene Melnyk running his mouth, and the Senators vowing to finally "slay the dragon", the two teams met for the fourth time in five years. And with nothing settled through six games, it was on to Toronto for a final game seven showdown.
The hockey world was expecting a classic. Instead, they got a classic meltdown.
The Kilger goal was excusable. The first Nieuwendyk goal was awful. The third was almost impossibly bad, the kind of disaster you need to watch over and over again just to convince yourself it was real. And that's the goal we're going with as the #1 moment on the list.
There were probably more important goals scored this decade. There were certainly much better ones. But whether we like it or not, the Battle of Ontario defined the decade for both franchises, and no moment captured the rivalry more perfectly than this one: Leaf fans cheering; Leaf players celebrating; and a Senator slumped on his knees, defeated, and ready to quit.
There were a few on-ice moments that didn't make the final list, but deserve a mention. In no particular order:
- The Leafs/Islanders bloodbath in 2002 - This was perhaps the most vicious series of all-time, but it's hard to pick an actual moment that stands out. Maybe Tucker's low-bridge on Peca?
- The Leafs/Habs season finale in 2007 - Definitely one of the most memorable games of the decade, but it was rendered moot thanks the Devils laying down for the Islanders the next day. Besides, the only moment from the game that stands out was Andrew Raycroft giving up a horrible goal, getting pulled, and then not caring.
- Ricard Persson hits Tie Domi from behind - But if Domi had better balance, the Senators would have won.
- Alexander Mogilny scores his 1,000th point in the Leafs comeback against the Sabres in 2004 - Confession time: I have absolutely no recollection of this happening. Was I in a coma? This is bothering me. (Update: robviper to the rescue with a newly posted youtube video.)
- Mario Lemieux returns to the NHL and scores three points against the Leafs - Hard to pick a moment where the Leafs got lit up, but any hockey fan had to enjoy this game.