LEAFS POSTGAME: Leafs lose a close one in New Jersey

Ryan Hobart
November 23 2016 08:31PM

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Photo Credit: Vincent Charchietta/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Leafs were in tough, playing on a back-to-back game against a rested opponent. Playing their backup goaltender, and facing a pretty solid New Jersey team.

1st period

The first period started pretty uneventfully, with some long range chances being exchanged but a sincere lack of dangerous shots. There was only 1 scoring chance (as per hockeystats.ca's data) in the first half of this period.

After a long while, Zach Hyman and Auston Matthews' collective forechecking abilities cause a turnover by the Devils' defense which Hyman picks up, throws in front, and is buried by Matthews. This goal breaks his long scoring slump and adds to a thus-far disappointing primary points total for Zach Hyman.

Later, after feeling a burst of energy to his legs from the 1st goal, Matthews drives to the net and puts a puck across the crease dangerously, that ended up in the net behind Cory Schneider. It was debated whether it went in off of Ben Lovejoy's skate, or Nazem Kadri's stick, but the conclusion was that it did both, meaning it was Kadri's goal. 2 points for Matthews now.

Late in the 3rd period, Connor Brown puts a puck in front that is misplayed by the Devils' defense and ends up on Auston Matthews' stick. He fires it top shelf to increase the Leafs' lead to 3 goals, himself with 3 points. 

The period would end 3-0 Leafs.

2nd period

The Devils jumped out to start the 2nd period, with a goal to climb back in the game after only 32 seconds. A tic-tac-toe goal from Mike Cammalleri and Travis Zajac exposed the Leafs D as they were trying to recover from a turnover. 

Some back-and-forth action put shame to the start of the first, as the Leafs and Devils traded chances for the first couple minutes of the period.

A little later on the powerplay, a shot from the point hits off a Devil player's back in front and lands in front of Beau Bennett, who nails the puck past Jhonas Enroth for his first goal of the year.

The Devils managed to climb all the way back, as another point shot takes a fortunate bounce for New Jersey, as a rebound off of Enroth is found by Cammalleri to tie the game.

Matthews almost had the hat trick on the powerplay later on for the Leafs, as it rang off the post. The Leafs had a few good chances on this powerplay, all stopped by Schneider.

The Leafs get a goal later on a rush play by the fourth line, as Martin gets a couple chances that squeak past Schneider to give the Leafs a lead again.

Some rough stuff occurred with Smith-Pelley taking a run at Smith, and some net-front scrums building tension in this game.

The Leafs penalty kill, assisted by some good play by Enroth, manages to fight off several Devils' PP chances late in the period. Some discipline issues for the Leafs perhaps, or possibly just some balancing of powerplay chances by the referees.

The period would end with the Leafs clinging onto a 1 goal lead, up 4-3.

3rd period

The third period started off slowly as did the first, with the Leafs and Devils largely playing slow and careful on the offensive rushes.

However, partway through the Devils score a goal that frankly shouldn't have counted, as Enroth was being interfered with by Nick Lappin on a point shot by Johann Auvitu. However, the Leafs had used their timeout to slow the Devils after they tied the game at 3, so they were unable to challenge the goal.

The clock ticked along as the Leafs and Devils continued to trade largely non-frightening chances throughout the 3rd period. 

The game approached the end and things started to pick up, as each team increased the pace trying to avoid heading to overtime. The Devils were putting more chances than the Leafs as the 3rd period was coming to a close. Things were looking like it would finish with a tie, if not a Devils win. 

But James Van Riemsdyk rang a puck off the post on a rush with Gardiner to show the Leafs could still be dangerous.

The period would end tied 4-4, and we head into overtime.

OVERTIME

The typically exciting and frantic 3-on-3 overtime was no disappointment, but it also wasn't to the same level of excitement we've seen in other contests. There were a few chances, but both teams had more interest in retaining possession than taking risks.

The last minute was pretty frantic though as one would expect, but ultimately fruitless. The overtime period ends as it started, 4-4.

SHOOTOUT

I'm going to say this every time I write one of these: I hate the shootout. It's utter randomness and at this point, if I wasn't writing about it, I'd shut the game off and flip a coin to see who will win.

Anyway, the shootout went as such:

Parenteau x Matthews x
Josefson
Marner x
Cammalleri x Soshnikov x

The Leafs lose in the shootout, 5-4 to the Devils

CONCLUSION

Obviously, Matthews' resurgence was a highlight of tonight's game. I think a critical takeaway is that the Leafs only had 3 legitimate goals scored against them, but come away with only a shootout loss instead of a win they probably deserved.

But if you look at it from another angle, the Leafs were outshot at 5v5 39 to 28, so perhaps the Devils deserved the luck they ended up with.

My 3 stars for tonight:

  1. Cammalleri
  2. Zajac
  3. Matthews

Tune in again when the Leafs return to action on Saturday against the Capitals at the ACC. A game I'm lucky enough to attend with my dad. 

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A stats #nerd who loves to think about hockey. Sometimes I write those thoughts down here. Find me on Twitter @ryanhobart84, or on reddit as /u/riversfan17