Game recaps, Phil Kessel lashes out at the Toronto media for its treatment of teammate Dion Phaneuf, and more. 

TORONTO STAR: The Maple Leafs got their first road win of 2015 by downing the Florida Panthers 3-2 in a game which saw Panthers goalies Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya sidelined with injuries. Panthers goalie coach and former NHL goalie Rob Tallas suited up to play, but ultimately he took a backup role as Luongo (still suffering from an apparent neck injury) returned in the third to finish the game.

An unhappy Phil Kessel defends teammate Dion Phaneuf from media criticism.

An unhappy Phil Kessel defends teammate Dion Phaneuf from media criticism.

This game was overshadowed by Leafs news off the ice.  Phil Kessel lashed out at the Toronto media for its treatment of teammate Dion Phaneuf, calling it “embarrassing” and “disrespectful”. Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas ripped TSN for its accidental airing of a distasteful tweet from a fan regarding Phaneuf, his wife Elisha Cuthbert  and teammate Joffrey Lupul during its trade deadline show.  Phaneuf, Cuthbert and Lupul are prepared to take legal action against TSN, which issued a formal on-air apology to the trio last night.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel is already receiving media backlash for his remarks, but I don’t blame Kessel at all for defending his teammate. As for that malicious tweet, TSN screwed up allowing it on the air, while the fan who wrote it could face legal consequences for his actions.

Some fans will say, “You’re professionals, suck it up  and stop whining.” Yes, they’re professional athletes and criticism from fans and media comes with the territory. Yes, the Leafs are playing poorly and there needs to be changes. Yes, the fans and pundits are fed up with years of mediocrity and have the right to voice their frustration. Of late, however, it just seems like flogging a dead horse.

The players are still human beings, with feelings and faults just like everyone else.  They can only take so much abuse.  Kessel and his teammates have had enough.  It put me in mind of the incident in Edmonton earlier this season when several fans waited in the concourse following a lopsided loss to Chicago to heap abuse upon the Oilers walking back to their dressing room. At some point, criticism turns to unnecessary abuse. These incidents will ensure that Toronto and Edmonton remain high on the “no-trade” lists of NHL stars. 

CALGARY SUN: Jiri Hudler scored in overtime as Karri Ramo backstopped the Flames to a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE VANCOUVER SUN: Matt Nieto scored twice while Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each collected two assists as the San Jose Sharks thumped the Vancouver Canucks 6-2.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Charlie Coyle scored in a shootout as the Minnesota Wild downed the Ottawa Senators 3-2, snapping the Senators five-game winning streak with call-up goalie Andrew Hammond between the pipes.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Los Angeles Kings down the Edmonton Oilers 5-2. The Oilers have scored only six goals in their last five games.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Recently-acquired (and well-traveled) Lee Stempniak could have major benefits for the Jets.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: New Canadiens’ Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn are excited about joining a potential Stanley Cup contender.