TORONTO 4, COLUMBUS 3 (OT): What the Leafs said.


Q. (Chris Johnston, Sportsnet): I’m just wondering what will you remember most about that comeback? 

SHELDON KEEFE: Just the resilience of our team and how it just put new life in our group. It was pretty remarkable to be a part of it.

Q. (Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun): For Sunday now, how do you get to a point where you don’t have to play like that in the last five minutes and maybe have some of that push much earlier in the game than in the final stages of the third? 

SHELDON KEEFE: I think we played a good game today. Obviously, we don’t that we got behind early. It’s a much more difficult team to play against when you’re behind than when you’re even or ahead, of course. They’ve clearly established that as part of their identity. It was a tough road for us today, but our guys played really hard. It wasn’t perfect, but our guys played really hard and it was nice to see them get rewarded.

Q. (Josh Clipperton, The Canadian Press): This core has taken its fair share of criticism. What did they show tonight?  

SHELDON KEEFE: Again, just resilience, just that they weren’t going to quit. Once we got one and got a little bit of life, they kept pushing. It was really nice and fitting the way that the goal was scored, the winning goal, Mitch to JT to Auston. But this was a group effort today. There was a lot of contributions. Look at the play of our fourth line today. They were outstanding. Jason Spezza just did not our season to end today and he played with that level of urgency. You see the fight, that’s just playoff hockey. That’s a guy who’s just not wanting to go down literally without a fight. It was great. It would have been so disappointing, of course, for it to end the way it was looking like it was going to. This is a funny game, a funny, funny game. I think there’s been times in this series where we haven’t been rewarded, perhaps, when we should have. A little bit of good fortune today as a result of some of our resilience. I thought we were pretty good in overtime and made good on our power play.

Q. (Luke Fox, Sportsnet): Can you describe what the mood was like in the dressing room during the second intermission and what the message to the guys was at that point? 

SHELDON KEEFE: The second intermission was actually pretty good. The first intermission, I think, was one that we kind of had to perk the guys up a little bit and get them going. First intermission I think just the way the period went, we didn’t get a whole lot and we were down, of course. The second intermission was actually really positive and felt good about the group. I don’t know that that necessarily materialized into anything productive on the ice necessarily and a credit to Columbus for how they played defensively. As I said, it’s crazy the way that it worked out. We’ve got new life here now. We were getting CPR there for a little bit and then we found our way back. Here we go. 

Q. (Mark Masters, TSN): Sheldon, how would you describe what it was like with four minutes left in regulation. Could you sense the push coming? Did you and the coaching staff have to do anything to prod it out? What was your view of that moment? 

SHELDON KEEFE: Columbus was doing a terrific job of really clogging things up in the neutral zone so we didn’t have a lot of life going. As coaches it’s our job to get the right people on the ice. Obviously, we had to pull the goaltender a lot earlier than you would normally want to. We just thought coming out of the TV timeout and the fact that we needed three goals and our best guys were fresh, it just made sense. We found a way to get one in. Suddenly you get the second one and now you’re in a game. It’s pretty remarkable, it’s been a pretty crazy 24 hours, obviously, from what we’ve been through here. What we’ve been through as coaches and players and staff and I’m sure fans, media, everything all the way around. It’s been a very interesting and unprecedented 24 hours. It’s on us to regroup and recover here and be ready to go for Sunday. 

Q. (Kevin McGran, Toronto Star): What’s going through your mind the way the game unfolds through the third period with them going up 3-0? What are you thinking in those moments? You’ve tried every line combination you could think of, it looked like. What are you thinking in those moments? 

SHELDON KEEFE: Once they got the third goal, obviously it’s pretty grim. You’re obviously in very tough. I was thinking about some of the great efforts that we’ve had here over the last number of days that I felt maybe we’re not going to be rewarded for it. I felt bad about that because I think we have had some individuals that have been really, really great through all of this. Then it turns, you get a bounce and it comes and all of a sudden you are rewarded for that and we’ve got new life as I’ve said. We’re really, really excited to play on Sunday. 


Q. (Kristen Shilton, TSN): What’s the moment like for you when you see that goal go in after coming back from a 3-0 deficit? 

AUSTON MATTHEWS: I don’t really know what to really feel in the moment, to be honest. I think your mind just kind of goes blank and I think it’s a credit to every single guy on our team for just sticking with it, battling back and just not quitting down 3-0 with a couple minutes left. I think that’s a testament to each guy in this locker room and I think everybody should be extremely proud of each other. 

Q. (Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun): Jason, you’ve been around this game a hell of a long time. Do you remember anything like that last four minutes? Anything comparable that you’ve been through? 

JASON SPEZZA: No I’ve never been a part of anything like that. With the firepower we have with these guys, the way they can put the puck in the net, we’re never out of it and there’s a great sense of belief in our group and we stuck with it the whole way and got some big goals by some big players. 

Q. (Josh Clipperton, The Canadian Press): This core has taken a lot of criticism the last few years. What did you guys show tonight? 

AUSTON MATTHEWS: I think just resilience. I think you’re going to go through ups and downs here and I think we’ve definitely been through our share of ups and downs. I think that’s just kind of par for the course here. I think you just try to stick with it, focus on what we can control and focus on what we have in the locker and stick together and play as a team. 

Q. (Luke Fox, Sportsnet): Jason, you don’t have very many fights in your career. What were your emotions coming into this game and what made you drop the gloves tonight? 

JASON SPEZZA: Just trying to spark the guys. I think just trying to show some desperation and have some push back. Sometimes without the crowd you don’t have that so just trying to create some emotion and play the role that I’m in and just try to get everyone going. You’re just trying to do what you can do at this time of year.


Q. (Josh Clipperton, The Canadian Press): That moment on the tying goal, I think everybody in the building probably thought Auston was going to shoot it. Can you just take us through it? 

ZACH HYMAN: Yeah, I rolled up the wall, I saw Auston in the middle and then it hit him. I thought he was going to shoot it too and then he came back to me and got it off my skate and just tried to throw it to the net. JT had a great screen and it went in. It was crazy. 

Q. (Justin Cuthbert, Yahoo Sports): I’m curious what the mindset was for you and I guess you can only speak for yourself, but the entire team when it was so late and you guys were down 3-0. Were the negative thoughts, the thoughts about what happens next with you guys and bubble life and so on and so forth, did any of that creep in and how were you able to keep everything in check when it was down to the last few minutes there? 

ZACH HYMAN: I think it’s natural that those thoughts start to creep in when they score the third goal but you just put your foot on the gas, keep going, it’s not over until the time runs out. Once you get that first one you’re only down two and then we got the second one pretty quick after that. The belief starts to grow. It grows, it grows and then you give yourself a chance. You keep putting pucks on the net and then we tied it up with 20 seconds there. Then Matts got the OT winner and we’ve got life. I think it’s an exhilarating win. We’ve got to temper our emotions and get back at it for game five. 

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