Knee Jerk Reaction: Complacency sinks the Leafs in home finale

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
13 days ago
All eyes were on Auston Matthews during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ home finale against the Detroit Red Wings. There were other minor developments in play, as Timothy Liljegren returned to the lineup and Max Domi remained on the top line after a brief injury scare. Matthews’ pursuit of 70 goals rendered every other aspect of Hockey Night in Canada into an afterthought and unfortunately, this carried over to the on-ice product.
Mitch Marner opened the scoring on the power play, as Matthews flew in during a textbook entry, then Morgan Rielly and William Nylander combined to open up some space, before Nylander found a wide-open Marner for his 26th goal of the season.
We almost witnessed history repeat itself in a dubious manner, however. Ilya Samsonov capitulated during the first period, allowing four goals on 13 shots, causing ripple effects across the Greater Toronto Area. Should Samsonov remain the Game 1 starter? Is Matt Murray in play? It wasn’t all on Samsonov, as Nylander, Ilya Lyubushkin, Nick Robertson and Pontus Holmberg were all culpable during Detroit’s second and third goals. The fourth goal — an absolute eye sore from David Perron — caused many to wonder breathlessly whether Samsonov’s confidence has completely evaporated for the second time this season.
Samsonov, to his immense credit, came roaring back and allowed the Maple Leafs to get back into the contest. He robbed Lucas Raymond in the third period, and received a standing ovation for staring down a flurry of shots in the dying seconds of the third period. There are two games to go in the regular season but cast us surprised if Samsonov isn’t the Game 1 starter at this rate.
Once again, all eyes were on Matthews. Nick Robertson scored on a spectacular individual effort, then Matthews scored his 69th goal of the season off a direct feed from Marner and the whole game whittled down to the pursuit of 70. John Tavares scored an equalizer and for a moment, we appeared destined for Matthews to bring the house down with a game-winner of his own.
Sheldon Keefe expertly called a timeout with 1:51 remaining in the third period, Matthews got his looks but it was all for naught. Max Domi — who has been cooking on the top line — took a brutal tripping penalty with 10.4 seconds remaining and the rest is history as Dylan Larkin won the game 41 seconds into over time for the Red Wings.
Bobby McMann was ruled out with a lower-body injury and he’s out for any time at all, it may have afforded Robertson a place back into the playoff lineup. Jake McCabe also left after taking a puck to the face in the second period. With nothing but Matthews’ pursuit of 70 goals to play for, all you can hope for is a clean bill of health as the Maple Leafs finish the season with two games in Florida.

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