Toronto Maple Leafs 5 – Winnipeg Jets 4
Auston Matthews 3- Patrick Laine 2
Before we start let’s just agree that this is the exact opposite feeling that we all had Saturday night. I don’t know about you, but I feel pure, unfiltered joy.
Looking at the upcoming schedule, if the Leafs want to be a playoff team, this was one they absolutely had to have. So it was an encouraging sign when, just over a minute into the first period, Josh Leivo who has been absolutely tremendous since drawing into the lineup to replace Nikita Soshnikov earlier this month, dug a puck out from behind the net, slid it to Leo Komarov at the boards at the side of the net, and Uncle Leo threw the disc in the general vicinity of the goal, where it hit Connor Hellebuyck’s left pad and trickled in, making it 1-0 Leafs. Sadly the lead would be short lived as minutes later, Patrick Laine would get just enough room to rip a shot past Frederik Andersen tying the game at 1. It would stay that way until 6 minutes later when Brian Little would poke a rebound past Andersen with the Jets on a power play, making it 2-1 Winnipeg. Still, the Leafs were controlling the bulk of the play and and seemed to be in a position to tie the game at any time, until late in the period, immediately after a faceoff, Roman Polak took a penalty for slashing. It was a play Polak would most certainly like to have back, and it was nearly catastrophic for the Leafs as it appeared that Brian Little tipped a Dustin Byfuglien blast from the point to make it 3-1 Jets. However the officials quickly conferred to rule that Little hit the puck with a high stick, wiping out the goal. Replay confirmed that call and we headed to intermission with the score 2-1 Jets.
The Leafs continued to control play in the 2nd period, although until there were just under 5 minutes left in the period, they were unable to find the equalizer, until Morgan Rielly flipped a bouncing puck to Josh Leivo, who did a fantastic job of staying onside and corralling the puck to zip it to a streaking Nazem Kadri, who cut in on goal and slide it past Hellebuyck to tie the game at 2. It would stay that way for about 2 minutes, until Nikolaj Ehlers got the puck to Josh Morrissey at the point, then positioned himself to tip Morrissey’s shot, redirecting it just inside the right post, past Andersen, to give the Jets a 3-2 lead. That would last another 2 minutes as William Nylander displayed his fantastic strength on the puck and fed Leo Komarov who tied the game with his 2nd goal of the night with less than a minute to play in the period. It would stay tied for approximately 29 seconds as the Jets had a flurry of chances in the Leafs’ zone, which ended with Laine ripping his 2nd of the game past Freddie with 2.3 second remaining in the period, inciting a huge scrum, including a heavyweight tilt between Byfuglien and Matt Martin, and sending us to the 3rd with the Jets up 4-3.
Very early into the 3rd period the Leafs went on the power play, and for a good portion of that man advantage, it appeared as though nothing would come of it. However, when you have players like Auston Matthews and William Nylander, one chance is all the need. Jake Gardiner got the puck to Matthews outside the left circle and Matthews shot intentionally wide in an attempt to make a bank pass off the end boards to Nylander, it was an attempt that was successful and Nylander made absolutely no mistake with it, firing it past Hellebuyck to tie the game at 4. That’s how regulation would end, despite several chances for both teams, including a Leo Komarov hat trick bid following a beautiful feed from Nazem Kadri that hit the post AND the crossbar before floating harmlessly away, and the Leafs having to go on the PK for the last 25 seconds of the period due to an Auston Matthews trip of Nikolaj Ehlers, we were off to OT with the Leafs on the PK.
Many, including me, have been highly critical of Roman Polak, so I think it’s important to mention that he was very good on this penalty kill, despite being caught on the ice for the entire 1:35 in OT that the Leafs had to kill off. Morgan Rielly was also phenomenal in this instance with several very good zone clears. The first change after the penalty was over led to Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Jake Gardiner on the ice. Shortly thereafter, Matthews broke up a Jets rush and poked the puck to Gardiner, who broke in 2 on 1 with Nylander, Gardiner elected to shoot, and beat Hellebuyck to give Matthews his 3rd assist of the game and the Leafs a 5-4 win, propelling them once again past Boston and Florida into 3rd in the Atlantic division. The Leafs are back in action Thursday night against the New York Rangers, where they’ll look for another pivotal 2 points.
Toronto Goal 1:02 L. Komarov (9) assisted by J. Leivo and N. Zaitsev
Winnipeg Goal 4:25 P. Laine (29) assisted by M. Scheifele and M. Perreault
Winnipeg Goal 10:33B. Little (17) (power play) assisted by A. Lowry and D. Byfuglien
Toronto Goal 15:52 N. Kadri (25) assisted by J. Leivo and M. Rielly
Winnipeg Goal 17:24 N. Ehlers (20) assisted by J. Morrissey and B. Wheeler
Toronto Goal 19:28 L. Komarov (10) (power play) assisted by W. Nylander and A. Matthews
Winnipeg Goal 19:57 P. Laine (30) assisted by M. Scheifele and M. Perreault
Toronto Goal 3:30 W. Nylander (17) (power play) assisted by A. Matthews and J. Gardiner
Toronto Goal 2:29 J. Gardiner (9) assisted by A. Matthews
SHOTS BY PERIOD
TEAMS BY THE NUMBERS
WPG — at — TOR
20 — Shots — 37
33 (46.5%) — Faceoffs (%) — 38 (53.5%)
1 – 4 — Powerplays — 2 – 5
31 — Hits — 32
MIKE BABCOK POST GAME SCRUM