In a game that was a case of Jekyll & Hyde, the Leafs and Blues battled it out.
With the Air Canada centre buzzing the Leafs get out to a strong start. They are quick to the puck and just setting up shop in the St. Louis end. The Leafs are dominant with Matthews getting a couple good looks and Carrick just hitting the post on a shot. All looked well until the Blues enter the Leafs end. Andersen was forced to make a big save on Shattenkirk, however he never fully rebounds. With Schwartz lying on the ground, he kicks the puck to Berglund who sneaks in and fires it in to make it 1-0 Blues.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) February 10, 2017
It is after this goal that Toronto essentially is forced into their end for quite sometime. Andersen has to make back-to-back-to-back game saving saves. The Leafs can never barely make it out of their zone and it’s after 8 minutes that they get their second shot on Jake Allen. Leivo has given the 4th line a noticeable boost and that led to the Leafs finally making it into the Blues zone. Marner and Bozak both get a couple of great chances but can’t convert. Matthews takes a penalty on Paarjvi that was a bit weak. This would be an important penalty kill and Hyman constantly keeps showing just how valuable he is. Smart clears and very safe simple plays makes him just a superb penalty killer. The leafs kill the penalty and we are back to 5-on-5. With the Blues attacking Andersen hits the ground, from a position that could be best described as Kate Winslet in Titanic’s painting scene, he tracks the puck and makes a spectacular glove save on Parayko.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) February 10, 2017
This essentially keeps the Leafs in the game and would be the standout highlight until the period ends. The period ended with shots 16-4, the boys owe Andersen a meal and a couple of drinks after this one because he was being hung out to dry.
The second period was looking bleak at first but ended brilliantly. The first 3/4 of the period was the Andersen show. Freddy kept the Leafs in a game that they had no business being in. The Leafs couldn’t clear the zone, the Blues kept firing them in. Andersen stoned Lehtera, Tarasenko and Agostino on plays that should have been guaranteed goals. In fact, there were few Leafs players not named Andersen that looked good. Leivo isn’t one of them, for his first game back, he has been making a statement. In a lackluster period, shift after shift he constantly stood out but again the Leafs couldn’t spark anything. The Leafs seemed to be destined to lose up until a strong shift by Leivo alongside Matthews brought life back into the ACC. With the crowd buzzing, it felt almost inevitable a goal would surely be on its way. With the Komarov lining up for a defensive end face off, due to Kadri being kicked out, he wins it passing it back to Morgan Rielly. Rielly skates up and passes it off to Kadri who powers his way in. Kadri shoots but Allen makes the save, Nylander is in front of the net creating some presence but can’t get a stick to the puck. Morgan Rielly enters, takes the puck and send it to the back of the net.
Rielly skates it out of the zone, gives it to Kadri and then follows up the play. He’s rewarded with his second of the year. pic.twitter.com/gibKUg7i5K
— Wendel Clarkson (@MuchTruculence) February 10, 2017
The Leafs have tied the game at 1 all and for the remainder of the period, they energy is back with Toronto. Note: Alexander Steen was injured, after getting tangled up with Nazem Kadri’s skate, he did not return to the game.
The Leafs picked up where they left off, Matthews attacking hard but nothing to come of it. Rielly is noticeably playing with confidence, he makes a play that sets up Nylander but again no goal. Komarov takes out Kadri, though. The Leafs are really carrying the momentum and using it to fuel each shift.
The Blues sensing the energy slipping away have a very strong shift but Andersen is there to close the door. Thus begins the tug-of-war that would be the third period. A constant back and forth with both teams putting on impressive displays. With Leafs playing so poorly in the first half of the game, they are more than making up for it now. Marner blocks a shot, Gardiner is playing tighter, Bozak is trying to get anything to go in but no dice. It’s during this play, that while Bozak was scrambling for Gardiner’s rebound, Pietrangelo held JVR’s stick leading to a power play.
The power play was aggressive and instead of setting up plays they were playing a more run and gun style. Break into the zone, blast the shot and hope for a rebound. It didn’t work but led to some pretty chances. Towards the end Gardiner goofs on the puck leading to a fresh out of the box Pietrangelo going one-on-one with Andersen. Freddy saves Gardiner and keeps the Leafs in it. The Leafs would go on a run of great chances, particularly Marner and Bozak’s give and go that leads to Marner in front of an empty net, but somehow the puck bounces over his stick.
The Leafs were attacking, they were showing heart and spirit that was absent earlier on. All the pressure couldn’t get the puck to go in.
It would be late in the period that a scramble in front of the net leads to the puck going in but it was after the whistle would sound. In a game, when the Leafs should have been out of it early on, they managed to force overtime.
From the second the face off was won the Blues seemed to have a play in mind. They skated almost as if they were instructed by Coach Bombay. Tarasenko drops back and takes the puck, he skates in and does what he does best. He scores the game winning goal and ends the Leafs night.
The Leafs had no business making it to OT. A strong third period doesn’t make up for a lacklustre second and dreadful first. They’ll happily take the point and more important, the confidence Andersen must have now will prove all the more important going down the stretch. Would’ve loved two but will definitely take the one.
St. Louis Goal 4:15 P. Berglund (14) assisted by M. Paajarvi and J. Schwartz
Toronto Goal 18:56 M. Rielly (2) assisted by W. Nylander and N. Kadri
St. Louis Goal 0:20 V. Tarasenko (26) assisted by J. Lehtera and K. Shattenkirk
SHOTS ON GOAL
1. V. Tarasenko
2. J. Allen
3. F. Andersen
BY THE NUMBERS
MIKE BABCOCK POST GAME
Game In Six will be posted as it becomes available……