It was made known to the public before puck drop that both Morgan Rielly and Rasmus Sandin were looking great in practice the past couple of days. Keefe said at this point, he would say both are close to returning, and he would consider both to be day-to-day. Great news for both the Leafs and their fan base. Samsonov was unhappy with his last start before the break, and he wanted to get back between the pipes for this one. Keefe elected to go ahead and give Samsonov what he wanted and gave him the start.
The Leafs started with some noticeable jump in their step in this one. Justin Faulk pulled David Kämpf down at center ice, and the puck was nowhere near the play. Unfortunately for the Leafs, there was no call on the play. It didn’t take the Leafs long to get the icebreaker as their relentless pressure resulted in a goal from Justin Holl, his second goal of the year, as he jumped in from the point and made no mistake as he ripped it past Jordan Binnington at 3:08. Auston Matthews and Mark Giordano assisted on the 1-0 goal. The next two shifts after the Holl goal, the Leafs kept the attack going as Auston Matthews generated a couple of great scoring chances, but he was unable to solve Binnington. Full credit to the Blues as they were able to weather the storm of the Leafs’ attack during the first seven minutes of the period, and they answered back with a goal of their own. Calle Rosen fired a shot on goal that found its way past Samsonov at 7:34. The goal was Rosen’s third goal of the year; Logan Brown and Alexey Toropchenko assisted it. The Blues were given the first power play in this one as Pontus Holmberg was called for hooking Noel Acciari at 8:40. The Leafs managed to do a great job with the penalty kill as they held the Blues to a single shot on goal. They were quite aggressive with their attack, which prevented the Blue from being able to set up much of anything. Pontus Holmberg was forced to stay on the ice as a result of an icing, and he found himself up against Ryan O’Reilly, one of the best face-off and two-way centers in the game. It was definitely a challenge for Holmberg, but full credit to him for bending but not breaking. It was a great test for the Leafs’ rookie center. The Blues controlled the majority of the play after they tied the game, but a great shift from the Tavares unit, Jarnkrok, Tavares, and Marner. It led to Tavares breaking the 1-1 tie with his 15th goal of the year, assisted by Marner and Jarnkrok, giving the Leafs a 2-1 lead with just 57 seconds left in the period. Shots on goal in the opening frame were 11-5 in favor of the Blues. TOI leader for the blue and white after 20 minutes was Mark Giordano with 7:25.
The Blues wasted very little time as they generated a great scoring chance less than 20 seconds into the period. Tarasenko could not corral the puck in the slot, so the Leafs managed to dodge that bullet. The Bunting, Matthews, and Nylander line has been incredibly dangerous in this one. It felt as if every single time they were on the ice, they were generating some sort of dangerous opportunities in the Blues zone. This was the case once again just over three minutes into the second period as Matthews came very close to beating Binnington again, but once again, Binnington shut the door. 3:59 into the period, Justin Holl laid a dangerous cross-check on Robert Thomas, which sent Thomas shoulder first into the boards. Holl was given a boarding minor as a result of the play. Thomas stayed down, acting like he may have been hurt more than he actually was. I say this because as the power play started, Thomas was right back out there.
Nevertheless, the Leafs’ penalty kill did an outstanding job once again. The duo of Jarnkrok and Kerfoot went to work in the offensive zone, which led to a shorthanded goal from Kerfoot, his fifth goal of the year. The assists went to Jarnkrok and Liljegren. With 13:08 to go in the period, Samsonov made a miraculous save on Noel Acciari to keep it a 3-1 lead for the blue and white. Seconds after that, however, Ryan O’Reilly came into the Leafs’ zone and absolutely ripped his 10th of the year past Samsonov. The only assist on the goal went to Brayden Schenn. Following the face-off, after the O’Reilly goal, Kerfoot was called for a holding minor, sending the Blues to their third power play of the game.
The Blues looked quite dangerous with the man advantage, Ryan O’Reilly in particular, as he had a couple of fantastic scoring chances, but credit to Samsonov for keeping the door shut. The pressure from the Blues would eventually be too much for the Leafs as Justin Faulk blasts his sixth goal of the year from the point past Samsonov, tying the game up 3-3. Buchnevich was given the only assist on the game-tying goal. The Leafs were finally given their first power play of the night at 12:19 into the second period as Nick Leddy was called for holding on Calle Jarnkrok. The top power-play unit stayed out for the entire two minutes, and they managed to create some great chances, but they were unable to regain the lead. Pontus Holmberg drove the net and was so close to finishing off what would have been a fantastic goal, but he was stopped. Luckily for the Leafs, Calle Jarnkrok was there to corral the loose puck and bury his seventh goal of the year at 15:16. Holmberg and Engvall were given the assists on the go-ahead goal. With 3:11 remaining in the period, Robert Bortuzzo was called for a delay of game penalty as he backhanded the puck over the glass in his own zone. Similar to their first power play, the top unit was able to create a couple of great scoring chances, but Binnington did a great job holding his own and keeping it a one-goal game. The final seconds would tick away, and the Leafs would carry their 4-3 lead into the third period. Shots on goal in the middle frame were 17-11 in favor of the Leafs, a much better effort than they had in the first period. Overall, shots were tied 22-22 after 40 minutes. TOI leader for the blue and white after the second was Mark Giordano with 14:48.
The opening minute of the third went as bad as it could have for the Leafs. First, Matthews with a nonchalant turnover in his own zone resulting in a scoring chance for Robert Thomas. Then John Tavares was called for holding Nick Leddy just 53 seconds into the period giving the Blues their fourth power play of the night. Full credit to the Leaf’s penalty killers once again as they successfully killed off yet another man advantage. The Blues dominated the first five minutes as Samsonov was under siege. Jordan Kyrou was finally able to break through as he managed to beat Samsonov with a snap shot for his 17th goal of the year. Colton Parayko was given the only assist on the game-tying goal. Sheldon Keefe was quite visibly upset about something that led to the game-tying goal.
It turns out Justin Faulk ran a blatantly obvious pick to create space which led to the tying goal. Any Leaf fans know this is the exact same type of play by Justin Holl in game seven against Tampa last year that resulted in a John Tavares goal being called back … in a game seven! Sorry, I’m still not over that call, if you couldn’t tell. After the goal, the relentless attack from the Blues continued as they got a couple more scoring chances. The trio of Kerfoot, Kampf, and Engvall have been great since Keefe put them together, and they continue to look more dangerous with each passing game. They put in a fantastic shift just past the period’s halfway mark. They couldn’t score, but they did generate several great scoring chances. They even managed to hit the post on one of their chances. Calle Jarnkrok was high sticked in front of the Blues’ goal, and once again, there was no call on the play. To say the officials were brutal in this game would be an incredible understatement, to say the least. Samsonov came up with a massive save with less than five minutes to go. Brayden Schenn tried to go cross-crease, but the puck hit off of Justin Holl, forcing Samsonov’s reflexes to kick in very quickly. With only a couple of minutes remaining in regulation, Zach Aston-Reese was very clearly high sticked and was bleeding quite a bit, and of course, once again, there was no call on the play. Absolutely pathetic officiating.
The Leafs elected to start Kampf, Brodie, and Liljegren in overtime. Liljegren managed to spring Brodie all alone, and Jordan Kyrou literally wrapped his arm around Brodie’s neck and pulled him down quite aggressively. Brodie was issued a penalty shot on the play. In my opinion, teams should have the option to take the penalty shot or take a power play instead in overtime. Binnington stopped Brodie on the penalty shot. Overtime was a lot of back and forth from both teams. With under a minute to go in overtime, William Nylander forced the turnover and stripped Vlad Tarasenko of the puck and went in all alone, and made no mistake scoring his 21st goal of the year. Just a gorgeous goal from Nylander. Given how pathetic the officiating was in this one, the Leafs were more than deserving of the win in this one. Shots on goal in this one were 37-34 for the Leafs. TOI leader for the blue and white was TJ Brodie with 24:57.
Tonight’s Three Stars
1. Calle Jarnkrok – 1 Goal 2 Assists
2. William Nylander – Game Winning Goal
3. Ryan O’Reilly – 1 Goal
Full credit to the Leafs stars in this game. Even when everything was going against them, they stuck with it and got the job done. The Leafs move on from this one, and they head to Arizona to take on the Coyotes on Thursday night at Mullet Arena.
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