Don’t look now, but the Leafs are slowly creeping their way back up the Atlantic Division standings. Despite a performance that probably doesn’t go down as their best goal-preventing effort, the Leafs managed to score away their problems and give the fans at Air Canada Centre a 5-4 thriller.
This game didn’t start particularly good for the Leafs. Just fifty three seconds in, Chris Kreider took advantage of an aggressive forecheck and tipped in Kevin Klein’s point shot to open the scoring. Phil Kessel made things right with the world, however, tapping in a back-door one timer to tie things up a few minutes later. This was barely scratching the surface on a hectic period, however – Peter Holland scored a shorthanded tally to give the Leafs the lead, Richard Panik added his third of the year for insurance, and just seconds after that, Mats Zuccarello closed the cap.
Late in the second period, a pair of sketchy plays by Stephane Robidas and Jake Gardiner (slightly moreso the former) lead to a giveaway, putting the puck on Carl Hagelin’s stick to tie the game. The Rangers took the lead early into the third period, which caused concern, but Roman Polak took advantage of a double screen provided by Leo Komarov and David Clarkson to tie the game. With five and a half minutes to go, Jake Gardiner fed Komarov for his first since returning to the team from Russia. Despite lots of pressure from the Rangers, that goal held up as the game winner.
Game winning goal, nine points in fourteen games, and I mean, just look at him. How could you say anybody else?
- Jonathan Bernier gave up four on 35 shots. Not horrible but really not a very good night either.
- Nazem Kadri was probably the best possession player on the team tonight, going 56% at even strength. Morgan Rielly and Richard Panik were also above 50%.
- Speaking of possession, the Leafs are now even on the year in close-situations Fenwick. That’s average, which for the Leafs, is fantastic.
- The Leivo-Carrick-Frattin line barely played. LIke, at all.