The Leafs looked very dangerous during the opening shift of the game. They generated some offensive zone time which led to a great scoring chance for Morgan Rielly, but he wired a shot off the post. He got another chance on his next shift, almost from the exact same spot, and this time he made absolutely no mistake, ripping his third goal of the year under the glove of Georgiev. The speed of this game was next level, both teams were trading chances at a high-octane pace. The first penalty came with 7:21 remaining in the opening frame, and it went against Mark Giordano for slashing O’Connor. The Avalanche had the sixth-best power play in the league coming into tonight’s game. The Avs were able to tie the game with the man advantage as Mikko Rantanen got a lucky bounce off of Jake McCabe, and the puck found its way past Ilya Samsonov. McCabe went down to try and take away the cross-crease pass, but in doing so, the puck deflected off of him and into the net. There was a penalty pending against the Avalanche, but the Leafs played keep away in the offensive zone, and they were able to generate a dangerous scoring chance off the stick of John Tavares. The Avalanche were eventually able to gain possession, and Alex Newhook was called for hooking Mitch Marner at 16:40. The Leafs came into tonight’s game with the second-best power play in the league. Full credit to the Avalanche penalty killers as they successfully killed off the man advantage, and they held the Leafs to a single shot on goal. Teams would head into the first intermission tied 1-1. Shots on goal were 11-7 in favor of the Avs. TOI leader after 20 minutes of play was Auston Matthews with 7:55.
Evan Rodrigues was called for high-sticking TJ Brodie just 3:21 into the middle frame, giving the Leafs their second power play of the game. Once again, the Leafs weren’t able to generate much of anything with the man advantage, and in the dying seconds of the power play, they were called for too many men, negating the remainder of the power play. The Avalanche were also unable to capitalize on their man advantage, and the score remained 1-1. At 11:56 of the period, TJ Brodie was called for interference on Brad Hunt, giving the Avalanche their third power play of the game. The Leafs penalty killers did a great job killing off yet another man advantage for the Avs. With 28 seconds remaining in the Brodie penalty, Evan Rodrigues was called for interference on Alex Kerfoot. Following 28 seconds of 4-on-4, the Leafs would have an abbreviated power play, their third of the game as well. Morgan Rielly had the best scoring chance for the blue and white with the man advantage, but Georgiev shut the door and kept it a 1-1 game. Both teams traded chances and continued to play with speed. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much happening offensively for either team during the second period. While the game felt close, the shot clock would suggest otherwise, as the Avs outshot the Leafs 10-4 in the middle frame. They also held a 19-11 advantage overall. TOI leader for the blue and white was Mitch Marner with 16:08.
Just 1:18 into the final frame of regulation Michael Bunting was called for high sticking on JT Compher as the parade to the penalty box continued. Another fantastic job by the Leafs penalty killers as they successfully killed off the man advantage, and they didn’t give up a single shot on goal. At 4:31, the Leafs were called for another penalty as David Kampf tripped a galloping Nathan MacKinnon in the neutral zone. The aggressiveness of the Leafs penalty kill prevailed once again as they got out of another man advantage unscathed. Roughly eight minutes into the third period Michael Bunting and William Nylander worked a great give and go, but once again, Georgiev was able to shut the door. Georgiev wasn’t busy through 50 minutes of regulation, as he only faced 13 shots during that time. Auston Matthews had a fantastic individual effort to beat Girard along the boards as he dropped his shoulder to gain inside position, and it resulted in a great scoring opportunity. Nathan MacKinnon went the other way and made a great play to find a streaking Evan Rodrigues, but Samsonov was able to get across to make the save and keep it a 1-1 game. With 3:55 to go in regulation, the Leafs caught a break as William Nylander launched the puck out of play in his own zone. Fortunately for him and the Leafs, it went into the Leafs bench, not the crowd. With under two minutes remaining in regulation, Noel Acciari made an incredibly crucial block for the Leafs. While he did block it with his hand, and he did look like he was in some discomfort, he did remain on the Leafs bench. The final seconds ticked away in regulation, with this one still tied 1-1, which meant overtime was needed. Shots on goal in the third period were 8-6 in favor of the Leafs. The Avs held a 25-19 advantage overall. TOI leader for the blue and white after regulation was Mitch Marner with 26:31.
Timothy Liljegren with an awful turnover to start overtime. Luckily for Liljegren, Mitch Marner got back and laid his body on the line to get in front of a Nichushkin shot to take away a scoring chance for the Avs. The speed of both teams was on full display during 3-on-3 overtime as they went back and forth, end to end. The overtime would come to a close, but it was absolutely electric, with both teams leaving everything they had on the line, but the shootout was needed. Nathan MacKinnon would go on to score the shootout winner to secure the extra point for the Avalanche.
Tonight’s Three Stars
1st Star: Alexander Georgiev – 17 Saves
2nd Star: Ilya Samsonov – 28 Saves
3rd Star: Morgan Rielly – 1 Goal
The Leafs are back in action on Friday as they host the Carolina Hurricanes to close out the four-game home stand.
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