No Chychrun, no weekend sweep over Columbus for the Maple Leafs: Muzzy’s Muzings
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Alberga1 month ago
Kent Johnson’s third period tip-in was the difference as Columbus topped Toronto 4-3 to salvage the weekend split and snap a four game winless skid.
Furthermore, that was Columbus’ first win this season when trailing after one. William Nylander and Michael Bunting potted first period tallies as the Leafs led 2-0 at the first intermission. In the second, the roadside responded with three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead into the third.
Joseph Woll made 36 stops in his season debut. Meantime, Elvis Merzlikins notched 27 saves to improve to 6-14-0 on the year. Boone Jenner and Kirill Marchenko each tallied a goal and an assist.
Nylander had one and one while for the second straight night, Mitch Marner racked up two helpers. Additionally, Morgan Rielly scored his second goal in his past four outings. And that’s a big development considering how long it took him to score his first of the year.
Toronto, who dropped its second straight game in regulation on home ice, fell to 32-14-8. Tampa edged Dallas 3-1 on Saturday, which means they’re now just two points back of the Leafs again for second in the Atlantic Division.
ANOTHER STRONG START
For the second straight night, the Leafs ran the Jackets out of the building in the first period. It was a dominant effort. Again, it was the big boys that led the charge. William Nylander, who had seven shots on goal on Friday night, kicked off the scoring with a roof job. Not to be outdone, Michael Bunting went provolone, too. Again, it was just a really good start all around, especially defensively. I know it’s Columbus, but the Leafs still deserve a lot of credit for keeping their big dogs in check —at least in the first 20.
SLOPPY SECOND WAS THE DIFFERENCE
For as good as they were in the first, the second period on was a different story for Toronto. And yes, first and foremost, Columbus deserves a lot of credit for showing up. Their big boys were much better in this one than they were in Columbus. In addition to that, I thought Elvis Merzlikins made a few big-time stops after surrendering the 2-0 goal to Bunting to keep the Blue Jackets in the game. It’s funny: He’s had a rough year, but evidently, a Saturday night outing on Hockey Night in Canada against Toronto was all he needed to wake up. That’s always how it works out, eh. Everyone seems to step up against the Maple Leafs.
Slowly but surely, Morgan Rielly is starting to look like himself again. For me, it’s been most noticeable in his skating. He’s got that zip back in his stride again. And that’s understandable, considering he’s coming off a knee injury. Unquestionably, this is a welcome development for the Leafs. Overall, it’s been a tough year for the veteran blue liner, but it’s all about how you finish, right? With his third period tally, Rielly extended his point streak to a modest four games (two goals, two assists). Additionally, that power play goal was the first PP goal by a Leafs defenceman in 69 (nice!) games. What a stat. More of that, please.
WOLL’S SEASON DEBUT
36 saves on 40 shots. Make no mistake about it, the Kuraly goal was a backbreaker, but all in all, Woll put forth a solid effort in his fifth career appearance in the NHL. With Matt Murray out indefinitely, it’s very likely that the 24-year-old will continue to get opportunities in order to keep Ilya Samsonov fresh for the important stuff come the spring time. It’s one game, but for the most part, Woll look poised and quiet in there. I think they’ve got something in this kid. I’m excited to see where it goes.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT:
The Leafs will be off for three days until Wednesday when they host Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks. Toronto took both meetings with Chicago in 2021-22.
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