Giordano, return of shutdown line help Maple Leafs win in fan-friendly return to Ottawa
Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
KANATA, Ont. — Mark Giordano grew up watching the ‘Battle of Ontario’.
On Saturday night, he wrote his own chapter.
“It was a pretty fun game to play in to be honest,” Giordano said. “In the third (period) there’s a really great atmosphere in the building, a good buzz every time you went out for shifts.”
The Toronto native scored the overtime winner as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-4 in front an overwhelmingly Pro-Leafs crowd. And while fans of Toronto showing up to games in Ottawa is nothing new, the sheer proportion of Leafs fans in the crowd made it feel like a virtual home hame.
“Especially tonight, it was packed,” Michael Bunting said. “The ‘Go Leafs Go’ chant was as strong as it gets. That’s amazing and that fuels us and it’s pretty cool to see.”
Maybe it’s the fact that the Senators have struggled with attendance this season, perhaps moreso since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold a couple of years ago. Years of futility can do that. Another theory going around is the fact that since the pandemic started, families have been moving away from city centres and there could be more fans Leafs fans that live closer to Kanata than every before.
Whatever the case may be, Leafs fans were here for it and treated to a favourable result.
You couldn’t accuse Toronto for not showing up against teams below them in the standings on Saturday, at least not at the very start.
Toronto outshot the Senators 15-6 after one period and throughly dominated the Senators in the possession department despite entering the first intermission down 2-0.
The goals against early on were a result of unforced errors.
The Sens first goal was the result of a chance created by the Maple Leafs for being too cute on transition. The Leafs looked for a pass up high when the shot wasn’t there and ran out of room. Justin Holl found TJ Brodie, who didn’t have much of a shot on the left side in deep and that helped the Senators come back with a 2-on-0. Michael Del Zotto passed to Tim Stutzle and Leafs goaltender Erik Kallgren had no chance on the play.
Del Zotto made it 2-0 late in the opening period when hit shot from traffic went through traffic and the five-hole of Kallgren.
In the second period, Holl atoned for a difficult first 20 minutes when he assisted on Kyle Clifford’s first goal of the season. Holl’s shot from the point was deflected by Clifford who parked in front of Ottawa goaltender Anton Forsberg.
The Sens restored their two-goal lead when Dylan Gambrell deflected Austin Watson’s shot from the point, but the Leafs responded with a pair of goals to even things up before the second period came to a close.
Ottawa actually closed the gap in shots in the early part of the middle frame when Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe adjusted his middle two lines by swapping William Nylander and Ilya Mikheyev on the left wing.
The adjustment, according to Keefe, was made as a result of the amount of defensive-zone faceoffs the Senators had forced on them in the middle frame.
“All season long when I’ve had Engvall, Kampf and Mikheyev together they’ve done a terrific job for us of starting in our end and driving the puck down the ice and getting us going on our front foot and I thought they did a terrific job,” Keefe said. “I thought that was a bit of a turning point for us. That second period. That line started to really drive the puck down the rink for us and we started to build positive momentum from there. That’s what I was looking for in that.”
The proof is in the numbers.
In the 5:04 of 5-on-5 ice time, the trio had four defensive zone faceoffs and two offensive zone faceoffs and finished with a Corsi and expected-goals percentage of 100.
From the momentum swing came chances for Toronto.
Bunting deposited himself to the net to bang in a shot or pass directed at the Ottawa net. Mitch Marner followed that effort up with his 31st goal of the season to tie the game 3-3 when he finished off a one-timer with a slipper from outside the circle.
Stutzle and Marner traded goals in the third period. For both of them it was their second of the night before Giordano’s winner in overtime.
The Maple Leafs currently sit at 104 points for the season and are one point away from matching and a win away from breaking their franchise record. With seven games remaning in the regular season there are still some questions.
Are the Leafs satisfied with what they look like on defence?
With Jake Muzzin out of the lineup, Justin Holl skated with TJ Brodie on the second pair. And while that line looked awful in the first period for their mistakes and 0 per cent xGF%, they ended up finishing in the top half of that category by the time the game was over, with Holl leading all Leafs defencemen at 77 per cent.
All stats courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com
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