Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Maple Leafs drop their third consecutive game in a 4-2 loss to the Red Wings
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
It was a great start to 2024 for the Toronto Maple Leafs, picking up four consecutive wins against the California teams. However, over the last two games, they’ve looked like the Maple Leafs of the past, and that has not worked out for them. After two blown multi-goal leads to the Islanders and Avalanche, the Maple Leafs looked to end their mini-losing streak against the Red Wings before heading out on the road for a tough challenge.
Last night’s game was scheduled to start just after 7:00 pm ET. But with some travel troubles for the Red Wings, the game was pushed back to 7:30 pm but didn’t start until closer to 8:00 pm. So, Toronto was already off to a strange start as they looked to bump this mini-losing streak.
Luckily, after receiving just two power plays (one in each game) against the Islanders and Avalanche, the Maple Leafs got the first two power plays just eight minutes into the contest. However, lucky for the Red Wings, Toronto didn’t generate much on either man advantage outside of a crossbar Nylander hit on the second opportunity.
Not long after Detroit killed off both of their penalties, Tyler Bertuzzi was whistled for slashing Moritz Seider’s legs, and the team with the most power play opportunities this season went to work. Similarly to Toronto, they didn’t generate much and managed just a single shot on Samsonov.
Up to this point in the game, there had been six minutes of penalties. Keefe’s new lines barely had time to get out on the ice together, and that continued as Daniel Sprong took the Red Wings’ third penalty of the period, this time for hooking Liljegren, sending Toronto to the power play yet again.
I feel like a broken record talking about this first period because the home team did nothing with their third chance on the man advantage, and both teams entered the first intermission tied 0-0, with Toronto getting outshot 10-7. It was a dreadful period offensively for the Maple Leafs, but a promising first 20 minutes for Samsonov in his return.
After a dull first period for Toronto, the new-look first line of Holmberg, Matthews, and Nylander got things started just 32 seconds into the second period. With Holmberg elevated in the lineup, he tipped home a Morgan Rielly shot for his second of the season to give the Maple Leafs the 1-0 lead, giving him four points in his last five games. Not too shabby for the 24-year-old.
Within moments of the opening goal, Max Domi was sprung on a mini breakaway with a chance to double their lead but was arguably slashed by the Red Wings’ defender, allowing James Reimer to make the save, keeping the score at 1-0.
It was a better period for the home team after registering just seven shots on the net in the opening frame. They generated more zone time, which ultimately helped them open the scoring. However, with the game being so close still, the Red Wings hung around and eventually ended Samsonov’s shutout bid late in the second period.
Jake McCabe turned the puck over behind his goal line, attempting to backhand the puck into open space for either Liljegren or Tavares to pick up, but instead, the Red Wings gained possession, and Dylan Larkin wired his 17th of the season farside to tie the game up.
With the period winding down after the tying goal, Toronto needed another tally to get back ahead on the scoreboard. And that’s what they did. After turning the puck over, which led to Detroit’s tying goal, Jake McCabe dumped the puck into the offensive zone for Toronto’s forwards to retrieve. Marner scooped up the loose puck and fed Bertuzzi, who gave it back to him, and Marner, sitting at 599 career points, potted home his 18th of the season into the open net for point number 600 on the career.
Mitch Marner became the fastest Maple Leaf to reach this milestone (548 games), besting Darryl Sittler, who did it in 584 games.
Toronto entered the second intermission up 2-1 and outshooting Detroit 21-18 (14-7 shot advantage for the Maple Leafs in the middle frame).
It was the Red Wings’ turn to score a goal in the opening moments of a period as Daniel Sprong tied the game at two due to a broken stick from Morgan Rielly. Noah Gregor circled the Red Wings’ net, looking for an option. He fed Rielly, but his stick exploded, and Sprong was off to the races. Samsonov went for a questionable flying poke-check, missing the puck completely, resulting in a goal for the road team.
That Sprong goal to tie the game up was the second time Toronto had a one-goal lead and lost it. Given their previous two games and the many blown leads, Toronto needed the next goal, and if they did score it, they needed to keep the advantage.
Compared to the first 40 minutes, it was a little less eventful, and there weren’t many chances combined between the two sides. It seemed like both teams were playing cautiously, waiting for each other to make a mistake and capitalize on it. But toward the second half of the final period, chances became plenty. In particular, one scoring chance went in for Detroit with a little under two minutes to go in the game, as Andrew Copp, in a similar spot to Nathan MacKinnon the night prior, wired one off the post and in for his eighth of the season to give his club the late lead.
After holding two one-goal leads throughout the game, Toronto had choked away yet another lead and allowed their opponent to grab the 3-2 lead late in the contest. Lucas Raymond buried the empty net for his 12th of the season to wrap the game up.
Who stood out:
Sheldon Keefe debuted four new lines last night, and to be honest, outside of the fourth line, consisting of Knies, Kampf and Gregor, which looked awful, everyone else looked meh at best.
The first line of Holmberg, Matthews and Nylander and the second line of Bertuzzi, Domi and Marner were the two best lines last night, but I didn’t think they were overly dangerous for the entirety of the game. They had their moments where they looked great but didn’t play like it for the full 60 minutes.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, both top six lines generated an xGF of 0.54 at five-on-five last night, outshooting competition at a combined 13-5, but only managed two goals the entire night.
Samsonov, who played in his first game since late December, looked fine. He made a handful of huge saves for his team when the game was tied, including a ridiculous glove save while lying on his back in the third period seconds before Copp took the lead. The only goal that I’d argue he should’ve played better was on the Sprong breakaway goal to tie it at two.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game Tuesday night when they head out on a four-game road trip starting in Edmonton as they take on the red-hot Oilers. Puck drop is scheduled for 9:00 pm ET/6:00 pm PT.
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