The Toronto Maple Leafs entered tonight’s game looking to hold on to some of the momentum that began their road trip. Fresh off scoring 12 goals in their previous two games and a sudden reincarnation for Jonathan Bernier, the team pointed their sights at the Arizona Coyotes; a team ahead of them in the standings, but not far out of the lottery race themselves. The sixty minutes that ensued were interesting though most of the scoreboard action occurred in a very short stretch of time.
It took fifteen minutes for somebody to break the ice, but when it happened, they may as well have caused an earthquake. James van Riemsdyk, taking advantage of a Mark Stone penalty taken just thirteen seconds prior, received a cycle-driven pass from Dion Phaneuf and casually fired a wrist shot past Louis Domingue to give the Leafs to lead.
That lead lasted seven seconds. Arizona won the following draw, and once they chipped the puck into the Toronto zone, it took a crazy bounce off the back boards and onto Shane Doan’s stick, which he turned into a goal with a quick backhand. Just fourteen seconds later, Kyle Chipchura picked up a puck coughed up by the Leafs in their own zone and fed it to Doan, which lead to another goal.
Shortly after a “fight” (read: quick body slam by the tall guy) between Peter Holland and Max Domi, the Leafs tied the game up, courtesy of Tyler Bozak finding Nazem Kadri for the easy close-range snipe. It was a rocky road to get there, though; Michael Grabner missed a penalty shot and Shawn Matthias had a goal disallowed for goaltender interference along the way.
This game wasn’t meant to be for the Leafs, though. Connor Murphy delivered the winning goal early in the third period, putting all his weight into a long bomb that snuck through traffic and Jonathan Bernier’s five-hole. Toronto did their best to tie the game up, and had a few close calls, but ultimately found that their weapons were firing without sufficient bullets.
Why The Leafs Lost
Louis Domingue had a heck of a game. It’s obviously not as simple as “the goalie did it”, but if there’s a huge factor in a game where the Leafs outshot their opponents by 13 and lost by a sliver, that would be the direction where I’d point. Domingue was quick to the puck, broke up a plethora of shorthanded rushes that the Leafs threw at him, and stood particularly tall in the closing minutes.
Beyond that, giving up two goals in fourteen seconds really, really stings. Toronto’s lack of preparedness on the first Doan goal wasn’t insane; it was a weird rebound off the back of the boards, after all, but the second was very clearly the result of mental lapse by a shocked team.
Nearly the entire team appeared to be on the positive side of the possession pendulum tonight; the only exceptions were Michael Grabner (48.39%) and Frank Corrado (41.67%). PA Parenteau led the team by being on the ice for 26 of their 60 even-strength attempts while only being on for 7 of 38 against, giving him a 78.79% ratio. His linemates (James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak) had similar performances.
Sticking to more traditional numbers, Morgan Rielly led the team with six shots on goal, Peter Holland’s “fight” with Max Domi gave him the most penalty minutes tonight, and Dion Phaneuf, who played 25:08, threw a ridiculous seven hits; more than second and third place combined.
Toronto was dominated at the draw, winning just 28 of 75 faceoffs, but ultimately, had the bulk of the control in this game, outshooting Arizona 39-26.
See You Next Time
The Leafs will now take a few days off to enjoy the holidays; maybe some of it will be spent in the Arizona sun? Their next game is on Sunday against the New York Islanders, representing the Leafs’ first game in the Barclays Center. Puck drop is at 6 PM.