It was a cold, wintry night for Maple Leafs fans on Thursday night as the blue and white fell short to the Arizona Coyotes, 6-3 in Tempe. It was a pretty back and forth match up between the two. However, despite being the better team most of the game, the Maple Leafs couldn’t grab the victory. This was the second and final meeting between the two sides this season. Arizona has now been victorious in both, stealing the season series from the Maple Leafs.
In the opening period of this one, it’s safe to say things got off to a shaky start for the Maple Leafs. A chip play off the boards for an Arizona forecheck caused Leafs defenseman Justin Holl to stumble and take down his partner Mark Giordano. As the two defensemen fell to the ice, Arizona forward Nick Bjugstad picked up the puck with only Leafs star Auston Matthews on his tail. Bjugstad did well in protecting the puck using his size and cut to the back door for a backhand shot that beat the Leafs goaltender. After Bjugstad’s 8th goal of the year that came within the game’s first 46 seconds, it was the Leafs who jumped back right away! A few good momentum-building shifts ended up drawing a penalty on Arizona. The Maple Leafs went onto the power play around the midway mark of the period and made no mistake! A point shot from Leafs defenseman Conor Timmins found Pontus Holmberg for the redirect! This was Holmberg’s 3rd-goal of the season as the blue and white leveled the game! After the Maple Leafs goal, the team didn’t stop there. Another few really, really good shifts working the Coyotes defenseman down low resulted in another Maple Leafs power-play. This time on the man advantage, it was Leafs forward Calle Järnkrok who scored! A well-worked goal by the Leafs second unit found Järnkrok in the slot, who made no mistake going glove side of Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka. As the Leafs took the lead with just under nine minutes remaining in the period, the Leafs still kept coming. It was a strong period for the Maple Leafs after Bjugstad’s opener. The team went on to outshoot the Coyotes 13-2 in the first twenty.
As the start of the middle frame kicked off, it was the Arizona Coyotes who had another strong start. Without scoring a goal, Arizona finally started to test Leafs goaltender Matt Murray. A few good opportunities were just missed that ended up resulting in an Arizona power-play. On the power-play Arizona Coyotes defenseman, Jakob Chychrun scored! Chychrun’s tying goal was his 4th on the season as he continues his strong run of form. After the Coyotes tied the game, the Leafs got one back! This time it was Maple Leafs forward Alex Kerfoot who scored! A well-worked shift by the Leafs forward set up a point shot for Mark Giordano, as the shot hit Vejmelka’s pad for the rebound, Kerfoot was on the doorstep to bang it into the goal! The Leafs went up 3-2 with just over nine minutes to go. As the period finished, both teams were creating chances and almost scored. This was definitely a much more balanced-out period than the opening frame.
In the final frame of this one, it was certainly a period Leaf fans would want to forget. Despite coming into the period up 3-2, the Maple Leafs were a little flat. Four minutes and forty seconds in, Arizona Coyotes defenseman J.J Moser scored! A well worked power-play opportunity for the Coyotes was capitalized, only seconds away from being a successful penalty kill for the Maple Leafs. As the period went on and the game was tied, the Maple Leafs started to push. Definitely the best they’ve looked in the final frame so far, but they just couldn’t beat Vejmelka. Around the seven minute mark of the period, a bad read by Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly caused an odd-man rush that the Coyotes capitalized on! Arizona’s Jack McBain finished a back-door pass from Lawson Crouse to take the lead late in this one! As the Leafs tried to push back, Vejmelka shut the door when he was needed most. An empty-net goal was converted for both Jack McBain and Barrett Hayton. The goals came only minutes apart as the Coyotes sunk the Leafs 6-3. The Maple Leafs will now look ahead to Saturday night’s game against Cale Makar and the Colorado Avalanche!