Joffrey Lupul was not thinking that way. The Toronto Maple Leafs forward, who had missed nearly two months because of a fractured forearm, just wanted to make an impact in his anticipated return to the lineup.
He did just that, scoring on his first shift of the game and again in the final minute of the second period. But once again, it was not enough. The Leafs, who allowed four consecutive goals in 10 minutes, lost 5-4 in an overtime shootout to the Winnipeg Jets.
With their third straight win, the Jets jumped from eighth place to third place in the Eastern Conference standings. But the Leafs continue to slide, now losing five straight games, although they have managed picked up two points during that span.
Still, with 19 games remaining in the season the sixth-place team is in danger of falling out of a playoff spot unless it can figure out a way to keep it together for the entire 60 minutes of a game.
"It's a mindset that's got to change with our group," said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. "You're not going to have success, you're not going to be able to get points if you're going to have speed bumps. I just think we have to take responsibility for it and look in the mirror and say this can't be happening to this hockey club. It's mystifying to everybody."
The most frustrating part for Carlyle is that at times this looks like a playoff team. At others, it looks like the same squad that careened off the cliff at the end of last season.
Saturday's game, which Carlyle described as an "emotional roller-coaster," had elements of both. Certainly, the return of Lupul is something that the team can build on. Scoring 1:35 into the game on a backhand that sailed over Ondrej Pavelec's glove, he looked like the player who scored 25 goals and 67 points in 66 games last year. And though it is early, he seemed to form immediate chemistry with Nazem Kadri.
"I really didn't have time to feel the nerves out there," said Lupul, who finished the game with two goals, five shots and six hits. "They turned the puck over and Nazem made a nice pass and I scored before I felt like I was even into it. That was pretty much the dream shift back."
The dream, however, turned nightmarish in a strange second period that saw the same old bad habits -- poor defensive zone coverage, giveaways, lack of effort and execution -- resurface as the Leafs went down 4-1. Almost everyone played a part in the collapse.
But if there was a positive, it was that Toronto somehow managed to come back on goals from Nikolai Kulemin and Lupul in the final two minutes of the period.
Ben Scrivens, who allowed four goals on 27 shots, was replaced by James Reimer to start the third period. And Phil Kessel then tied the game at 5:50 in the third on a partial breakaway. But that was as close as the Leafs would come, as they eventually lost in a shootout that took 10 rounds and 20 players to settle.
"I'm proud of the guys of fighting back," said Kadri. "It would have been easy to give up and throw in the towel, but the guys kept battling back and we got one point of it."
Carlyle agreed: "There are some good things happening in the game, but they're always overshadowed by the negative of losing the point in the shootout."
The question now for the Leafs is how to pull it all together for 60 minutes. The team blew a near-perfect performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the week by allowing three goals in the final eight minutes of the game. And while the Leafs managed to get a point this time around, it is the points that they are giving up that hurt the most in a playoff race that could come down to one or two points.
"It makes it awfully difficult to have any clear vision as to what was going on for 12 minutes of the second period," said Carlyle. "It's like we've talked about it and it just seems that we hit a spot in the game where we just don't do anything right."
© Copyright (c) National Post