Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell was distraught after the Montreal Canadiens' series-clinching 3-1 victory in Game 7 on Monday night.
A shot from Brendan Gallagher squeezed through his legs to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead in the second period and Montreal went on to complete a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.
"It’s just tough," Campbell said in near tears. "I just think of how hard our team battled and for it to end on the worst goal of my career, to happen in Game 7, is not acceptable."
Though the shot was one that Campbell would like back, goaltending was not the issue during the Maple Leafs' collapse that kept them from their first playoff series victory since 2004.
“For it to end on a goal… worst goal of my career to happen in Game 7…”
An emotional Jack Campbell after the @MapleLeafs Game 7 loss. pic.twitter.com/fdr2frILN0
The high-powered Maple Leafs appeared in great shape heading into the playoffs after winning the North Division and facing a team that was 18 points behind them in the standings. With a Canadian team guaranteed to make the NHL semifinals, a shot at winning their first Stanley Cup since 1967 seemed possible.
In many ways, this collapse seems the worst in their history because they were seemingly in control after winning Game 4.
But Auston Matthews, who scored 41 times in the regular season, had one goal in the playoffs. Mitch Marner, who had 67 points in 55 games, was limited to four assists and had the turnover that led to Gallagher's goal.
Brendan Gallagher (@BGALLY17) gets the #Game7 opening goal! #StanleyCup
Zach Hyman had one goal, trade deadline acquisition Nick Foligno had one assist and their power play efficiency was 13% — scoring three times on 23 chances — down from 20%.
"We're a team that excels with the lead and we didn't get a lead once going into those last couple games," said Marner.
Injuries played a role, with John Tavares being taken off on a stretcher in Game 1 and defenseman Jake Muzzin missing part of Game 6 and all of Game 7. They were also stymied by Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
General manager Kyle Dubas has decisions to make, especially with the all-Canada division disbanding next season and the Maple Leafs returning to a division that includes the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers — all teams that remain in the playoffs.
The Montreal Canadiens are moving to the second round after knocking off the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo: Dan Hamilton, USA TODAY Sports)
Forwards Matthews, Marner, Tavares and William Nylander, the lone consistent scorer in the playoffs with five goals, are locked in long term. So are defensemen Muzzin and T.J Brodie, and Morgan Rielly has a year left on his deal. But there are a dozen unrestricted free agents, including Hyman, veterans Foligno, Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza and goalie Frederik Andersen.
Campbell, who had a 1.81 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in the playoffs, is the lone goalie under contract next season. His strong play with Andersen injured carried the Maple Leafs down the stretch and earned him a nomination for the Masterton Trophy for perseverance.
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