Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Maple Leafs pummel the Penguins in Kyle Dubas’ return to Toronto
By Joseph Zita2 months ago
After what was a crazy and stressful yet entertaining game against the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs continued their three-game homestand last night as they hosted Kyle Dubas and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second meeting of the season and first in Toronto, making it Dubas’ return to the city.
Heading into last night’s game against the Penguins, the Maple Leafs went into it without two everyday players, Auston Matthews and TJ Brodie (illness). With those two out of the lineup, recently called-up Pontus Holmberg and Timothy Liljegren, who returned from his injury, slotted into the lineup.
With that bit of roster news out of the way, the game started with lots of energy. Toronto generated the game’s first couple of scoring chances and even scored the first goal. Just under two minutes into the game, Matthew Knies, who returned to the lineup last night, used his speed and size to cut to the net, and he roofed his seventh of the season over Jarry’s shoulder for the early 1-0 lead.
Knies got Scotiabank Arena on its feet early on, and just three minutes later, he gave them another reason to get on their feet to cheer. Max Domi was taken down by John Ludvig in the corner, and Knies didn’t like that at all. He went after the defender in the corner, and the two of them eventually dropped the gloves, giving Knies a goal and a fight just five minutes into the game, which meant he needed just one assist to record his first career Gordie Howe hat trick.
With a goal and a fight in the first five minutes of the game, the momentum was in Toronto’s favour, and rightfully so. They carried the play for the next 10 minutes, generating more scoring chances and limiting Pittsburgh to just three shots midway through the frame. With just under 10 minutes left in the period, Max Domi stripped Jeff Carter off the puck and fed Robertson, who sauced it over to Marner, who was streaking on a breakaway, and he roofed his 13th of the season over Jarry’s shoulder for the 2-0 lead.
Pittsburgh eventually got their feet going and started to create some chances, but Martin Jones had the answer for them and kept his team ahead by two goals. However, Bobby McMann, searching for his first career NHL goal, finally potted one home after Pontus Holmberg rang the crossbar seconds earlier, and the Maple Leafs were now leading by three.
Toronto headed into the first intermission up 3-0, tied in shots with the Penguins, 11-11.
Up by three goals heading into the second period, Toronto couldn’t take their foot off the gas. They needed to continue playing how they had been up to this point to build on their lead, and that’s what Toronto did.
Just under three minutes into the second, Martin Jones caught the Penguins on a line change and sprung Marner a rocket of a pass toward the offensive blue line. Marner collected the puck, passed it to a streaking Knies, and set Domi up all alone against Jarry, potting home his second of the season to give his club a 4-0 lead.
Not even two minutes later, the Maple Leafs were on the power play after Kris Letang was whistled for holding, and after going 0-for-2 earlier in the game, the top unit finally got one. William Nylander blasted a shot from the high slot, and Tavares was right there to clean up the rebound for his ninth of the season.
With the Penguins down by five early in the second period, a push from them was inevitable, and that’s what they did. They managed to register 18 shots on net from the start to the end of the period. Fortunately for the Maple Leafs, Martin Jones was up for the task and kept them off the scoreboard long enough for Noah Gregor to get in on the scoring action with his fifth of the season, as he sniped one past Nedelkjovic with one second left on the man advantage.
It was another three-goal period for the Maple Leafs to give them a 6-0 lead heading into the second intermission despite being out-shot 29-25.
Similar to the first and second periods, Toronto started with a lot of jump, and the fans in attendance and watching on TV thought the Maple Leafs scored a seventh goal, but it was waved off for some reason. Maybe because it was 6-0? Who knows?
Either way, Toronto was up 6-0, and they didn’t need to score any more goals. They needed to shut it down and pick up the two points against their former GM and the team that defeated them earlier in the season.
It was a less eventful period to end regulation compared to all the goals scored in the first 40 minutes, but Toronto got on the scoreboard for a seventh time with roughly five minutes left. Jake McCabe sprung Nylander and Bertuzzi on a two-on-one, and Bertuzzi, with tremendous patience, fed Nylander back door for his 15th goal of the season and 40th point.
The Maple Leafs could’ve cruised to victory earlier in the third period, given how the Penguins were playing, but after Toronto’s seventh goal of the night, it was all but over. On the night their former GM returned to town, the Maple Leafs shut out the Penguins in dominating fashion, 7-0, with their third-string goalie, Martin Jones, picking up a 38-save shutout.
Who stood out:
Where do I begin? It was an incredible performance from the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, and multiple players had big nights as Toronto stomped all over Pittsburgh, 7-0. But I’ll quickly talk about a handful of standouts from yesterday.
For starters, Martin Jones, who made his second start as a Maple Leaf in this one, captured an impressive 38-save shutout, improving his record to 3-0-0 with the Maple Leafs and improving his numbers to a 1.85 GAA and .949 SV% in the absence of Joseph Woll.
Matthew Knies also had a monster game. The 21-year-old, who missed the two games before last night’s contest, not only scored his seventh of the season and added an assist on Max Domi’s second-period goal, but he dropped the gloves for his first career fight, recording his first career Gordie Howe hat trick!
According to Sportsnet Stats, Matthew Knies became the first Maple Leaf to do this since Daniel Winnik did it during the 2014-15 season.
Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi. It’s no secret both these players had very slow starts to their tenure with Toronto, more so Bertuzzi. But last night, both forwards combined for six points (three points each) and looked very good on the new-look lines without Matthews in the lineup. Bertuzzi also led the team with a 1.54 xGF at five-on-five last night, according to Naturalstattrick.com. He continues to impress in that stat.
Last but certainly not least, Bobby McMann. The undrafted 27-year-old netted his first career NHL goal in the first period to give his team a 3-0 lead, and you could see the relief on his face after finally tucking one. In seven games with the big club this season, the Wainwright native has four points to his name and five in his career.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game Tuesday night at home against the New York Rangers when they honour John Tavares for his 1000th NHL point. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT. But given the pregame ceremony, puck drop will likely be delayed.
(Stats from Hockey-Reference.com)
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