Hot Phil, Cold Third

JP Nikota
October 08 2011 09:02PM

In the second period of the game, with the Leafs leading 4-0, it seemed fitting to begin writing this game recap with a reminder of the brutal turn for the worse that the Leafs' last season took, right after they jumped out to a 4-0-0-0 start. "Let's not let anyone get ahead of themselves", I was going to say.

By the end of the third period, however, there really was no need to remind anyone that this year's Leafs' squad isn't so different that last year's incarnation. We had plenty of in-game reminders.

In a perfect world, the fact that the Leafs actually managed to hold off their opponents would be a sign that instead of coughing up the lead in these games, they'd finally learned to close out a game. Really though, the Sens should never have had a hope.

Nuts to moral victories though, we'll take the two points.

The Leafs started out slow, and had real trouble breaking out of their own zone. The Leafs' passes weren't clicking, and Reimer made a number of solid saves in the opening 10 minutes of the first to keep it at 0-0.

Things turned around when Jaren Cowan took a double minor penalty for high-sticking Colby Armstrong, and Nikolai Kulemin sent a nice pass into the slot for a Mikhail Grabovski in motion for the Leafs' first power play goal of the season.

The Leafs dominated from roughly the ten-minute mark in the first until the end of the second, with Phil Kessel scoring two beauties, and Joffrey Lupul potting a power play goal with a tip on a point shot that Anderson had no chance on.

Most of Canada experienced minor tremors when Dion Phaneuf sent Sens' rookie Stephane Da Costa into the stratosphere with this hit.

Then, things got ugly. The Leafs' took a few stupid penalties, got caught on a few bad bounces (see Alfredsson's shorthanded goal), and their penalty kill folded like Superman on laundry day.

Thank heaven for Phil Kessel's victimization of Craig Anderson and Alex Auld. With the Sens having trimmed the Leafs' lead to 5-4, he used his speed to expose Jared Cowen as a meat sack, and rifled his third goal of the game just inside the far post for his first hat trick as a Leaf. Kessel has now scored more goals against the Senators than he has against any other team in the league.

Sure, the Sens brought it back to within one again, but Phil Kessel was again instrumental in killing off the last minute of play with some great work down below the goal line in Ottawa's zone when they had the goalie pulled for the extra attacker.

Box Score via NHL.com

3 Stars as per CBC:

First Star: Phil Kessel
Second Star: Joffrey Lupul
Third Star: Erik Karlsson

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#1 Notaleafsfan
October 09 2011, 01:29AM
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Not all of canada experienced 'minor tremors' tonight,not in the future, prbly not for alongtime anyways where the leafs are concerned!

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#2 Charlie Pride
October 09 2011, 10:40AM
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Yes I got a little worried in the third, but I dis -agree with the comment about it being like last season. I've seen in the 2 games so far some better defensive play(except 4 3rd period). you can chock that up to getting too comfortable with the lead they had. Otherwise I think they played great in the first 2 games. Lets just hope it keeps going.

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#3 Dirty Dangle
October 09 2011, 01:25PM
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Phil Kessel's play in the final 30 seconds was almost as impressive as his hat trick. He made sure the puck got deep without icing it, rather than taking a selfish shot on net (see Russia vs. Canada World Juniors Semi Final 2009). Then it was almost like Tyler Bozak was controlling Kessel along the boards in NHL 12 as he battled down low to kill time.

Just seeing Kessel backcheck and be stronger on the boards will impress me this season, as his shot alone will always net him 30. That means a lot coming from us considering we made the Phil Kessel Missing Posters last year.

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