MAPLE LEAFS (15-12-7) at LIGHTNING (18-15-3)
7:30 pm (SportsNET)
The Leafs head into Tampa to play their 2nd game in as many nights after a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers.
Rarely do you see a game where both teams record 40 plus shots, but that’s what happened Wednesday night in Sunrise, Florida, with the Panthers firing 47 pucks at Frederik Andersen and the Leafs sending 40 in the direction of Roberto Luongo.
Both netminders were absolutely sparkling in this contest, making one spectacular save after another, with Luongo stymieing Mitch Marner on at least 3 point blank opportunities. For their part, Matthews, Marner, and Nylander were spectacular as well, combining for 2 goals, 1 assist, the shootout winning goal, and an astounding 18 shots on goal.
Despite the win, it was far from a perfect game for the Leafs.
Seemingly cruising through 2 periods, Toronto saw a 2-0 lead evaporate less than 3 minutes into the 3rd period when Jonathan Marchessault buried the rebound off a Keith Yandle shot after Connor Carrick failed to clear the puck up the boards. Marchessault forced Nikita Zaitsev into a turnover less than 2 minutes later and although Andersen was able to stop the initial shot, Vincent Trochek deposited the rebound into the Leafs’ net, tying the game at 2.
This prompted Mike Babcock to use his timeout to calm his team down, which worked to a degree, as they controlled the play for a few moments, but were unable to convert. Toronto spent most of the remainder of the game trading chances with the Panthers.
Overtime was a thrilling exhibition of pure skill with both goalies standing tall, sending the game to a shootout.
Mitch Marner, who had 9 shots turned aside by Luongo in the first 65 minutes of play, exacted sweet revenge by scoring the only shoot out goal to cement the win. This is the 3rd consecutive win for the Leafs after wins in Colorado and Arizona before the Christmas break.
A couple weeks ago, Head Coach Mike Babcock challenged his team to record 6 points every 5 games, which they did over their last 5 game stretch, and have managed to do it again this time, with a game to spare.
The Leafs hope tonight’s game against Tampa goes considerably better than the last. It was October 25 at the Air Canada Center when Tampa put up 7 goals against Frederik Andersen, including jumping out to a 5-1 lead before the Leafs cut it to 5-3 with about 10 minutes to go. That’s as close as they would get though as Tampa added 2 more markers to their cushion to win 7-3.
This was the game where Mike Babcock stuck with Andersen despite a shaky performance, and has since been rewarded with spectacular goaltending from The Great Dane.
Tampa comes into tonight’s game off of a 4-3 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Ondraj Palat scored to tie the game with under 4 minutes to play and Tyler Johnson added his 2nd of the night in overtime to win it for the Bolts. Tampa has seemed to find their game of late after struggling following the a major injury to captain Steven Stamkos. Nikita Kucherov leads the Lightning with 32 points and 13 goals respectively, while Victor Hedman has a team leading 24 assists.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Hyman — Matthews — Brown
Komarov — Kadri — Nylander
Martin — Gauthier — Soshnikov
Rielly — Zaitsev
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
Tampa Bay Lightning
Palat — Johnson — Kucherov
Boyle — Filppula — Drouin
Killorn — Peca — Gourde
Bournival — Condra — Brown
Hedman — Stralman
Garrison — Sustr
Koekkoek — Coburn
Mitch Marner — Post Game — 12/28/2016