The Toronto Maple Leafs wrapped up a massive back-to-back on Sunday night, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1! The blue and white were fortunate enough to capitalize on the very few mistakes made by Carolina. It was an interesting game that was pretty back and forth; credit Carolina for looking exactly as advertised. A team that might not have the star power on paper as other elite teams but will look to outwork you and beat you off effort. This was a game that Carolina might have won eight times out of ten, but that’s no jab at the Maple Leafs. This was an extremely impressive result against a strong Hurricanes team after a huge win last night. This Maple Leafs team looks hot heading into Tuesday’s rematch vs. the Golden Knights.
The Carolina Hurricanes got to work early on the Maple Leafs in the first period. They hammered Leafs goaltender Erik Kallgren with shots to open the game, getting 14 on target in the opening twenty minutes. The game’s first goal was scored by former Maple Leafs forward Stefan Noesen. The 29-year-old forward scored his second of the season on the power play. It was a cross-checking penalty to Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl that Carolina could convert. After Carolina took the lead early, it was a pretty strong period overall for the Hurricanes. Erik Kallgren was extremely calm and collected after giving up the opening goal from a tough angle. This one could have gotten ugly fast if Kallgren wasn’t as good as he was in the opening frame.
In the second period, the Maple Leafs finally started to get more a pushback. The Leafs were getting out skated for a fair portion of the game until a substantial shift from Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl led to the Maple Leafs’ first goal. A beautiful wrister from Maple Leafs forward Calle Jarnkrok for his third of the season. The goal was the lone goal of the middle frame and was assisted by Maple Leafs forward Pierre Engvall and defenseman Justin Holl. The Maple Leafs had most of the high-danger chances in the 2nd period and ended up outshooting the Hurricanes 12-8.
In the third period of a tie game, the Maple Leafs started pretty flat. Not what you wanted to see from the blue and white besides the strong play of Erik Kallgren. After some high-danger opportunities for the Hurricanes couldn’t be converted, the Maple Leafs struck quickly. Maple Leafs captain John Tavares gave the blue and white the lead after a nifty setup from Mitch Marner. Mitch could beautifully corral the puck with one hand on his stick through Carolina’s Brady Skjei and place it perfectly in the slot. After Tavares buried a beautiful goal on ex-Maple Leaf Frederik Andersen, they weren’t done yet. Maple Leafs star William Nylander scored a beautiful goal based on effort and determination against one of the league’s best defensemen, Jaccob Slavin. A creative one-hand reception and a quick stick lift led the puck to slide right through Andersen’s legs for the late dagger. Despite clearly outplaying the Maple Leafs for a large portion of the game, the Maple Leafs emerged victorious.
The takeaway from the game
My main takeaway from tonight’s victory is fairly obvious, but it’s how impressive Erik Kallgren played. The 26-year-old goaltender saved 29 on 30 shots while holding a goals saved above expected at 2.9, according to Moneypuck.com. This had to be the biggest takeaway of tonight because this team looks like they’re starting to turn it around “completely.” They have a major three-game win streak right now against some elite opponents, even with back-to-back with the unfortunate news about Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov going on injured reserve and goaltender Matt Murray already on long-term injured reserve. The Maple Leafs will need Kallgren to step up if they want to remain successful. Tonight, Kallgren was arguably the best player on the ice and certainly kept the Maple Leafs in this one all night long. If Erik can continue this strong play heading into this week’s games, there’s no reason the Maple Leafs can’t be successful.
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