For 60 complete minutes there was, perhaps predictably, little-to-no response from the Toronto Maple Leafs in their return clash with the Calgary Flames following Matthew Tkachuk’s contact with now-injured backup netminder Jack Campbell in their previous engagement two days ago. With no code enforced, the Flames forward wasn’t pressured into a fight with Wayne Simmonds or Zach Bogosian, and was instead provided the opportunity to simply play his game.
But just as the Leafs secured their third and fourth points from the two-game road set in Calgary, there was a perfectly subtle, savvy and veteran effort to acknowledge both Tkachuk’s presence and wrongdoings.
It appeared totally innocuous, but Leafs defender Jake Muzzin clearly connected with a nerve when he flipped a perfectly-weighted puck at a kneeled Tkachuk, which landed softly in his lap just as the buzzer finished sounding to end the game.
Failing to appreciate how easy he was let off in the game in that moment, or perhaps just incensed with the result, Tkachuk lost his mind in response to the perceived disrespect, trying desperately to confront Muzzin.
But after failing to accomplish anything with his initial contact with the howling Leafs defender, all he managed to do was make a mess of the game, coming up short in his attempts to work back through the mess of uninterested parties.
Tkachuk then took out his frustration at the Flames bench while his teammates patiently waited for the outburst to conclude.
For Muzzin and the Leafs, it couldn’t have worked out better. Tkachuk was largely a non-factor in the game and wasn’t given the chance to earn respect by fighting a bigger and stronger opponent to atone for his role in the Campbell incident, like he has several times previously in his career.
Instead he’ll have to stew on the incident, the outburst and the jokes online for nearly another month before the two teams finally meet again.
Then we’ll see if he’s the one looking for payback.
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