It’s officially official. For a second straight year, the Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Leafs were returning home to take on the Red Wings after coming off a 3-0 victory over the Senators in Kanata last night. With just two weeks until the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Leafs elected to rest Mitch Marner, Mark Giordano, and Jake McCabe for this game. As a result, Wayne Simmonds, Conor Timmins, and Nick Abruzzese drew into the lineup. This would be Timmins’ first game since February 24th, and Abruzzese was making his season debut for the blue and white.
The Red Wings wasted very little time opening the scoring in this one as Olli Maatta somehow got a partial breakaway, and he ripped it past Matt Murray just 90 seconds into the game. The Wings came close to making it a 2-0 game, but Murray scrambled, and somehow the puck stayed out to keep it a 1-0 game. Adam Erne was called for cross-checking Conor Timmins at 5:33, giving the Leafs the game’s first power play. Just as the penalty was expiring, Calle Jarnkrok was on the doorstep, and he managed to bury his 19th of the year to tie the game 1-1. Immediately following the tying goal, the Leafs went right back on the attack, and there was a scramble in the Red Wings crease. During the scrum, Kasper put his hand on the puck in the crease resulting in a penalty shot for the blue and white. David Kampf, who was chosen to take the shot, was denied by Alex Nedeljkovic. Wayne Simmonds was called for tripping Marco Kasper at 9:06, giving the Wings their first power play opportunity. The penalty killers for the Blue and White did a fantastic job killing off the man advantage and held the Wings to just a single shot on goal. Berggren picked off the puck, went in all alone, and fired an absolute laser past Matt Murray at 12:44 to give the Wings a 2-1 lead. That was the second goal allowed by Murray on just seven shots so far. Lucas Raymond was cutting through the front of the Leafs goal and lost his footing. As a result, he slid into Murray taking his legs out, and Murray fell awkwardly, hitting his head on the ice. After a discussion with the trainer, Murray eventually left the game, and Ilya Samsonov was forced to come in with just under four minutes to go in the first. With 38.2 seconds to go, Dylan Larkin corralled a loose puck in the slot, and he made no mistake beating Samsonov to make it a 3-1 game. The final seconds would tick off the clock, and the Wings would carry their two goal lead into the second period. Despite trailing, the Leafs held a 13-11 shot advantage after 20 minutes. TOI leader for the blue and white after one was Morgan Rielly with 7:36.
Both teams traded chances during the opening five minutes of the second period. Despite action at both ends of the rink, the score remained 3-1 in favor of the Wings. The best chance came from Michael Bunting as he tipped a point shot on goal and got a second chance on the rebound but came up empty-handed. With just under 12 minutes remaining in the period, the Red Wings threw a point shot on goal that hit the post then Samsonov somehow got his glove on the rebound to keep it out. Samsonov got up slowly and looked to be in some discomfort, but he stayed in the game. The Leafs continued to press, but full credit to Nedeljkovic, who held his ground and kept the 3-1 lead intact for the Red Wings with 8:34 remaining in the middle frame. The Leafs were given their second power play of the game as Lucas Raymond launched the puck out of play in his own zone at 11:31. Once again, the Leafs were unable to cut into the Red Wings lead with the man advantage as they weren’t able to generate any shots on goal. The ice was definitely tilted one way in the second half of the period, as most of the play happened in the Wings zone as the Leafs continued to pepper Nedeljkovic. The second period would come to a close with a scrum which resulted in a ten minute misconduct assessed to Michael Bunting for … well, I’m not sure if I’m being honest. Shots on goal in the second period were 13-6 in favor of the Leafs. They also held a 27-16 advantage overall. TOI leader for the blue and white after 40 minutes was Morgan Rielly with 16:13.
During the opening shift of the third period William Nylander gained speed through the neutral zone. He looked poised for a breakaway, but he was taken down, and once again, there was no call on the play. Nylander looked at the officials in disbelief. With 15:07 remaining in regulation, Larkin was called for holding Abruzzese, giving the Leafs their third power play of the night. This time the top unit capitalized as John Tavares tipped a Morgan Rielly point shot past Nedeljkovic for his 33rd of the year to get the Leafs within one. Shots on goal halfway through the third period were 11-0 in favor of the Leafs. The first two shots on goal for the Red Wings resulted in a goal, restoring their two goal lead as Dylan Larkin buried it. With 6:49 to go, Samsonov made an unbelievable glove save on Berggren to keep it a two goal game. The Leafs went the other way, and Rielly let a point shot fly that beat Nedeljkovic but nailed the post. With 2:12 remaining in regulation, Larkin got a lucky bounce as he hit the empty net for his second career hat trick. The final seconds would tick off the clock, and the Red Wings picked up just their second victory in their last 11 visits to Toronto. Shots on goal in the third period were 16-6 in favor of the blue and white, and they also had a whopping 44-23 advantage overall. TOI leader for the Leafs was Morgan Rielly with 24:08.
Tonight’s Three Stars
1. Alex Nedeljkovic: 42 Saves
2. Dylan Larkin: 3 Goals
3. Olli Maatta: 1 Goal 1 Assist
The Leafs are back in action on Tuesday night as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets!
For more Leafs news and in-game tweets, follow me on Twitter @mikethefanatic! Also, be sure to check out The Leafs Late Night Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts!