So this is what it feels like to be the team that gets under the skin of the opponent.
The Leafs were getting at the ire of the Jets during a scrappy win on Thursday night that snapped Toronto’s five-game losing streak. Forty-eight hours later, the same scenario occurred and the Leafs got the same result.
Jack Campbell allowed the first shot to get past him in the opening minute but remained solid the rest of the way. Joe Thornton then used his long reach to tuck in the tying marker that rewrote the Leafs’ record book before Mitch Marner got a lucky bounce that went his way.
MITCH MARNER 🚨
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 24, 2021
John Tavares scored to increase the lead to two and that’s when the real fun began. Things started to get chippy as the game progressed with both teams taking runs at each other. Some of the plays were called while others were not, but the two have bad blood boiling right before our eyes.
A slow third period saw some life when Thornton and Nikolaj Ehlers took runs at each other numerous times, capped off with a devastating slash from the latter. As tension started to subside, Alexander Kerfoot put the game away with an empty netter and further secured his team’s position at the top of the division.
3rd Star: William Nylander
Every time he stepped on the ice, scoring chances would develop within a matter of seconds. Nylander was getting many great looks, including one on the power-play that hit the post. His best moment was when he made a big defensive play to steal the puck before going the other way to beautifully set up Tavares’ goal. There’s no doubt that Nylander is incredibly valuable to this team.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 25, 2021
2nd Star: Rasmus Sandin
The Sandman is here to stay and he made sure of it with another strong performance. He was moving the puck well, setting up chances, and making smart plays in his own end. Sandin saw some looks on the top power-play unit and even laid a big hit on Blake Wheeler. He has to remain in the lineup even when Zach Bogosian returns.
Rasmus Sandin rocks Blake Wheeler pic.twitter.com/BfvlbgdpyB
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) April 24, 2021
1st Star: Joe Thornton
It’s been a long time coming for Jumbo Joe but the ageless wonder finally showed up with his best game in quite some time. His goal in the first period made him the oldest Leaf ever to score a goal (after having the honour snubbed from him by a Jason Spezza tip on Thursday) and he made it look pretty too. But Thornton’s beef with Ehlers in the third was quite a sight to behold and he was able to get under the latter’s skin a bit. What a legend.
Joe Thornton (41, 296 days) is now the oldest @MapleLeafs player to score a goal, surpassing Allan Stanley (41 years, 252 days), who previously held the mark since Nov. 8, 1967 (at OAK). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/e7eXULaD3B
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 24, 2021
40th Star: Morgan Rielly
By no means was this Rielly’s worst game of the season, but he has certainly had better days throughout his NHL career. The Leafs had four power-play chances and failed to convert on any of them, partially because Rielly kind of hindered the top unit’s ability to get pucks on the net. The time is ripe for Toronto to experiment with a different defenceman to play with their Big Four so it might be worth swapping Sandin for Rielly. Special teams are paramount to a team’s playoff run and the Leafs don’t have it working in their favour at the moment in part due to the longtime defenceman’s play.
Tweet of the Night
“The Leafs are dirty”
The Leafs: pic.twitter.com/uYkDrmlPyA
— Justin Fisher (@thejustinfisher) April 25, 2021
The Bay Street Bullies are back!
Toronto now begins a three-day break before heading to Montreal to complete the five-game road trip. There they will take on the faltering Canadiens who are seeing their playoff chances slip through their fingers. You can catch the action on Sportsnet and RDS with puck drop scheduled for 8 p.m. EST.