Back on November 6th, the two worst teams in the NHL faced off in the 'Battle for Last Place.' The Toronto Maple Leafs (boasting a 1-7-5 record for a total of 7 points) were in Carolina to face the Hurricanes (also with 7 points, but having a 2-9-3 record). In that game Carolina scored 2 goals on Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson on 8 shots in the first period. They then fired 9 more shots in the second and 19 more in the third, all to no avail. Gustavsson held strong between the pipes and gave Toronto a chance to get back into the game. And that's precisely what they did, scoring twice in the second and once more in the final period to secure their (temporary) hold on 29th overall in the NHL.
Less than two weeks later, on November 19th, those two teams faced off again in Carolina. And the situation hadn't changed much in the meantime. Toronto had a record of 3-11-5, for 11 points, and Carolina matched those 11 points with a record of 3-12-5. This time around, Toronto jumped out to a good lead in the first putting 3 pucks past Manny Legace (in to replace the injured Cam Ward). Carolina got a couple back in the second on goals from Stephane Yelle and Matt Cullen that were scored 43 seconds apart. At 3:43 into the third period, though, Alexei Ponikarovsky scored to give Toronto a two goal advantage. Carolina refused to give up, and Tim Gleason scored twice at around the 8 minute and 12 minute marks to tie the game at 4 goals a piece.
The score stayed that way until there was 30 seconds left when Ian White's shot found the net and would likely stand up as the game winner - right? Wrong, as Erik Cole was able to tie the game yet again with less than 3 seconds on the clock. And we're off to extra time, where nothing was solved in the first 5 minutes and Carolina's shooters put 2 past Gustavsson in the shootout. With the win, Carolina was able to take a 1 point lead in the standings and, at least for now, take sole possession of that not so lonely second-to-last place.
So, unless one of these teams picks up their game, the next game in the 'Battle for Last Place' will take place January 17th, 2010 in Toronto. Will you be watching?