April 22nd, 2024

Giordano honours late father after scoring in return from injury, Leafs top Caps 5-1

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on March 28, 2024.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Connor Dewar (24) scores on Washington Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren (79) during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, March 28, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO – Mark Giordano wasn’t sure he would get a chance to honour his late father under the NHL’s bright lights.

The league’s oldest player at age 40 had missed the last 12 games with a concussion as part of a Maple Leafs defence corps that ballooned to nine deep following the trade deadline.

Life, as Giordano has become acutely aware over the last six weeks, can move incredibly fast.

The veteran blueliner didn’t flinch when he got his chance Thursday.

Giordano scored an emotional goal in his unexpected return to action for an injury-hit roster as the Leafs cruised past the Washington Capitals 5-1.

“It’s been tough,” said the Toronto native, whose dad, Paul, died suddenly Feb. 16 at age 75. “There’s been moments where it’s been real tough on the family side of things, but been having a lot of fun being at the rink around the guys.”

Giordano missed five contests following his dad’s passing before suffering a concussion in his second game back Feb. 29.

The Leafs then made a series of moves to bolster their blue line, pushing Giordano further down the depth chart.

But pressed into action with his team down three defenceman Thursday, he opened the scoring on a shot off the post before pointing to the sky in celebration.

“Something I promised I would do,” said Giordano, who was activated off long-term injured reserve before the game. “The way it was going, it didn’t look like it (would) happen, but it was nice to get that one.

“Nothing too big, but pretty special for me.”

Tyler Bertuzzi, with two goals to give him six in his last seven games, Conner Dewar and Bobby McMann provided the rest of the offence for Toronto (41-22-9).

Joseph Woll made 24 saves after giving up a goal on the first shot in his last two starts, including Tuesday’s ugly 6-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils that left head coach Sheldon Keefe fuming at the entire roster’s “immature” performance.

“That was big for us,” Bertuzzi said of the response. “We didn’t let off the gas.”

Nic Dowd replied for Washington (36-27-9). Charlie Lindgren stopped 43 shots.

“There were plays to be made,” Capitals defenceman John Carlson said. “We just didn’t make them.”

Toronto sits four points up on Tampa Bay for third in the Atlantic Division, while Washington remains in the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, two points ahead of Detroit with a game in hand.

Leafs sniper Auston Matthews, who leads the NHL with 59 goals, suited up despite missing the morning skate with an illness.

Toronto was, however, minus plenty of talent. Top-line winger Mitch Marner sat out a ninth straight game with a high ankle sprain, while defencemen Morgan Rielly (upper body), Timothy Liljegren (upper body) and Joel Edmundson (undisclosed) were also sidelined.

That opened the door for Giordano, who fired home his second goal of the season – and first in 31 games – at 10:09 of the opening period before raising that arm skyward.

“Just a jokester,” he said of his father. “A great guy. Funny, easy to be around. We miss him. It was a tough little bit for the family, but we rally around each other.”

Woll, who had to be sharp later in the period when he outwaited Nick Jensen in tight, was smiling at the other end of the rink.

“Pretty special,” said the rookie netminder. “Whether or not (Giordano’s) in the lineup, he’s a huge part of this team.”

Publicly ripped by Keefe when their structure completely fell apart Tuesday following a 25-shot first period, Bertuzzi made it 2-0 just 18 seconds into Thursday’s second period when he banked in his 17th off Lindgren.

Dowd got that one back when he tipped home his 10th at 5:27, but Dewar restored Toronto’s two-goal advantage when he backhanded his 11th – and first with the Leafs since being acquired from Minnesota – at 11:38.

McMann put the home side up 4-1 at 1:06 of the third with his 14th and Bertuzzi added his 18th off a turnover at 10:11 on a night Giordano won’t forget.

“You always feel better being around the guys,” he said. “When something like that happens, you see how many people really, truly care about you.”


Washington rookie head coach Spencer Carbery and defenceman Rasmus Sandin returned to Scotiabank Arena for the first time since leaving Toronto last year.

Sandin was dealt to the Capitals ahead of the 2023 trade deadline. Carbery, who spent two seasons as a Toronto assistant, was hired by Washington in May.

“Always appreciated being in this organization,” Carbery said of the Leafs. “The pressure that came along with it “¦ means you were doing something important.”


Toronto: Visits the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

Washington: Visits the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2024.

Follow @JClipperton_CP on X.

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