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Maple Leafs blow 4-2 lead with 90 seconds left, lose 5-4 to Hurricanes in the shootout

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
23 days ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes battled it out on the ice for the second time this season last night while the Maple Leafs debuted their brand new Toronto St. Pats jersey ahead of the third consecutive meeting between the two teams on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

First period:

The Maple Leafs returned home, coming off a big win against the Flyers, who have been a surprising team thus far this season, sitting third in the Metropolitan division, to take on a good Hurricanes team that entered last night’s game right above Toronto in the overall standings. As mentioned above, Toronto debuted its brand-new Toronto St. Pats jersey. Unfortunately for the crowd in attendance and the fans watching at home, that might’ve been the only good thing from the first period of yesterday’s game.
The Hurricanes have been one of the better defensive teams all season long. But Toronto, similarly to Carolina, has been at the top of the league in goals-against average and shots-against since the calendar flipped to 2024, meaning there was a strong chance this period had the makings of a low-event period of hockey.
That is indeed what it turned out to be. Despite a power play for both sides and an abbreviated man advantage for both teams, neither team generated much through the first 20 minutes of the hockey game.
According to Moneypuck.com, Toronto and Carolina generated a combined xGF of 2.04 in all situations in the first period, and at the end of the frame, Toronto held a narrow shot attempt advantage of 20-18.
Toronto entered the first intermission tied 0-0 and in shots 9-9.

Second period:

It was quite a low-event period of hockey through the first 20 minutes of the game yesterday, so it wouldn’t have been absurd to suggest things continued that way into the next period. However, there was too much talent on the ice last night to not think things would eventually open up, creating some goals. The Hurricanes came out for the middle period, looking like the better team for the first five minutes. They hemmed the Maple Leafs in their zone, testing Ilya Samsonov, but he was up to the task early on.
Fortunately, the home side weathered the early mini storm, and it was Toronto opening the scoring in the St. Patrick’s Day game. After being aggressive on the forecheck earlier in the shift, John Tavares was skating back to the defensive zone when Carolina was skating in transition. Toronto forced them into a turnover, and TJ Brodie collected the puck and fed Tavares for a breakaway goal – his 21st of the season.
A little under two minutes after the Tavares tally, it was William Nylander’s turn for a breakaway. Similarly to their previous goal, Toronto forced Carolina into a neutral zone turnover, and Morgan Rielly swatted the puck up the ice. Nylander collected the puck and bolted toward the net. He made a nifty move in tight on Pyotr Kochetkov and roofed his 36th of the season on the backhand, doubling Toronto’s lead.
It was evident Toronto was the team carrying the momentum after scoring two goals in under two minutes. They continued to generate chances in the Carolina end, but their next goal came off another turnover from a Hurricanes stick. John Tavares hunted down the loose puck in the offensive zone and found Nick Robertson in front of the net for his ninth of the season.
Unfortunately, after Robertson scored to go up 3-0, Toronto came inches away from taking a commanding 4-0 lead, but Pyotr Kochetkov denied Max Domi in tight. That save allowed his team to skate down the ice in transition, and they eventually found the back of the net as Jordan Martinook scored his 12th of the season, cutting into Toronto’s lead.
The Hurricanes are a good team and never out of games until the game is over. Toronto needed to score the next goal to avoid making this a one-goal game after being inches away from making it a four-goal lead earlier in the period. Luckily for the road team, they were awarded a questionable power play late in the frame with an opportunity to get closer to tying the game. With two seconds remaining on the clock, TJ Brodie and Joel Edmundson left Seth Jarvis alone in front of the net for an easy goal, cutting Toronto’s lead to just one.
Toronto entered the second intermission up 3-2 and outshot 25-23.

Third period:

Some of the worst goals to give up in hockey are the ones at the end of a period, and with two seconds left in the middle frame, Carolina got on the board to carry their one-goal deficit into the final period of regulation.
The Hurricanes carried that momentum into the third period, looking like the better team for the first couple of shifts, coming close to scoring a third goal, but it was swatted away out of the blue paint. After weathering a similar storm in the previous period, Toronto did the same, and they were rewarded with a goal soon after.
Just under three minutes in, the fourth line found the scorehseet. They were previously in the offensive zone, but the Hurricanes cleared the zone, looking for a line change. Morgan Rielly saw that, gave David Kampf a bank pass off the neutral zone boards, and he was alone on Kochetkov.
Kampf got in close and beat the 24-year-old netminder five-hole for his sixth of the season, doubling Toronto’s lead early in the third period. It was important for the home side to get the next goal. They couldn’t afford to let Carolina get the tying goal after previously holding a 3-0 lead in the second period.
The early tally from Kampf gave his team some more breathing room against a good Hurricanes team, but they couldn’t sit back because another push from the road team was expected.
Toronto was given another power play, and although they looked a lot better on their third attempt, they did not find the back of the net, continuing their slump on the man advantage. Unfortunately, with their third power play going goalless, Carolina was given a power play of their own late in the period with the goalie pulled. At this point, the Maple Leafs were defending a 6-on-4, which is difficult, especially against a team like Carolina. They were able to kill off the first minute and a half of the penalty, but with roughly 30 seconds left, Sebastian Aho potted home his 26th of the season to get his team within one.
The penalty that sent Kampf to the box was a little questionable, and after allowing them to score on the power play, it didn’t make things better. Toronto was now defending a one-goal lead with roughly a minute to go in the game, and of course, the Hurricanes pulled their goalie again for the extra attacker.
It was a tough ending to regulation for the Maple Leafs. They had played a solid game to win in regulation against one of the better teams in the league, but after Carolina scored their third goal to get within a goal, you had a feeling a fourth was coming, given the offensive zone pressure. With seven seconds left, a point shot from Brent Burns took a bounce off Aho, and the 26-year-old had his second goal of the game in under two minutes, sending this game to overtime.

Overtime period/shootout:

The game shouldn’t have gone to overtime, but it did, securing at least a point for both sides.
If you were Carolina, you were thrilled about securing at least one point. You’d like two but would be content with one. If you were Toronto, you were visibly upset you blew a multi-goal lead with under two minutes left, potentially blowing away two points in the standings.
Overtime is fun, that’s a given, but having to play in overtime last night wasn’t fun. However, both teams put on a show in the extra period, generating some great looks on both goalies, but neither side could find the back of the net for the winner. Toronto was given their fourth power play of the game, giving the home team a 4-on-3 man advantage. Like their third power play, they had chances. But Kochetkov was dialled in, denying everything thrown his way, keeping the game alive for his team, and sending this game to the shootout.
The shootout, unlike overtime, is a poor way to determine a winner. I think everyone can agree with me on that take. However, those are the rules of the NHL, and these two teams were headed there to decide the ultimate winner. The first round presented William Nylander and Evgeny Kuznetsov, but neither scored. The second round showed Auston Matthews and Andrei Svechnikov looking to find the back of the net, but both goalies didn’t allow them. The third – and final – round had Max Domi for Toronto. He was met by a diving poke check from Kochetkov, allowing his team to win. Jake Guentzel hopped over the boards for the Hurricanes, and he made no mistake, beating Samsonov and picking up the 5-4 win for his team.

Who stood out:

The first period was a snooze fest for both sides, so let’s skip to the next 45 minutes, where things got interesting.
If you dive deep into the numbers, Toronto didn’t look all that good last night but played well enough to win. Three of their four goals came off turnovers that turned into breakaways. Yes, four goals in a game is great but at five-on-five, Carolina controlled the play, despite the shots and shot attempts being similar. According to Moneypuck.com, not one Toronto line generated an xGF% above 39% that played more than three minutes together last night. But as mentioned earlier, three of their goals came directly off turnovers.
At five-on-five, Carolina generated 3.41 xGF, compared to Toronto’s 1.56. In all situations, Toronto held the advantage of 5.86 to 5.42. Not scoring on one of their four power plays hurt them. Their last two power plays had the best chances, but Kochetkov was stellar on the penalty kill.
Let’s talk about the other goalie, Ilya Samsonov. Despite allowing four goals in regulation, I thought he had another solid game. The box score looks ugly when you see four goals allowed beside his name, but allowing two goals short-handed in the final two minutes doesn’t help, specifically when the team in front of you doesn’t help clear the front of the net. Samsonov deserved better in last night’s game.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Tuesday night when they return to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers for the second time in six days. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.

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