Knee Jerk Reaction: Woll rallies but comeback attempt falls short

Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
16 days ago
There’s no shame in losing on the second night of a back-to-back against one of the NHL’s best teams in the Carolina Hurricanes but it was a frustrating outcome for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who did too little, too late in a failed comeback attempt.
Carolina emerged with a 2-1 victory and set the tone from the outset. Jake McCabe was Toronto’s worst player by some distance and during his first shift, he turned the puck over with his back to Teuvo Teravainen and it directly led to Brady Skjei’s goal on the first shot of the game. Skjei scored on a seeing-eye shot through traffic and given that the Hurricanes run their offense through the point more than any genuine contender, it was a sign of things to come. It was a bad omen for TJ Brodie’s return to the lineup after a two-game absence. McCabe’s errors then compounded in the second period when Sebastian Aho banked a centring pass off his skate and in for a 2-0 lead.
You can’t fault McCabe solely but he finished with a team-worst 38 percent share of the expected goals at 5-on-5. And considering that the Joel Edmundson-Timothy Liljegren pairing were Toronto’s best defense pairing by some distance, it stands to reason that the Maple Leafs still need to find an optimal partner for Brodie. Whether it’s fair to Brodie or not, he was a part one of McCabe’s worst performances in a Maple Leafs uniform.
This game wouldn’t even be close with Woll rebounding from a shaky start. Woll stopped Jake Guentzel on a penalty shot, a direct result of Edmundson handling the puck in the crease. Toronto surrendered seemingly countless 2-on-1s throughout the contest and Woll shut the door on nearly a half-dozen breakaways throughout the contest as Carolina sprung long-range outlet passes to great effect through the middle of the ice.
Nick Robertson struggled throughout the contest, taking an ill-advised penalty in the second period when he tried to bat the puck down in the offensive zone and instead high-sticked Skjei in the face. He tried to force his own looks and fumbled the puck several times. And right when you thought Robertson may be doomed to visit the press box imminently, he scored in the third period, getting open in the faceoff circle as Auston Matthews waltzed through centre and found him wide-open. Matthews, for what it’s worth, continued his routine excellence with a team-best five shots but it was all for naught.
Toronto tried to pepper former friend Frederik Andersen with a valiant comeback effort in the dying minutes of the contest, but it was too little, too late. Andersen was outstanding and frustrated Matthews and Nylander throughout Sunday’s game, earning some “FREDDY” chants from the crowd. It’s not pleasant to be on the other side of it. On to Game 71 on Tuesday.

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