Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Tempers flare in final seconds as Maple Leafs drop season series finale to Senators 5-3
By Joseph Zita9 days ago
For the fourth and final time last night, the provincial rivals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators battled it out on the ice in the nation’s capital in yet another edition of the Battle of Ontario.
If you watched the beginning of the game, you would have noticed the sea of blue in the stands with the number of Maple Leafs fans in attendance last night in Ottawa. ‘Go Leafs Go’ chants broke out almost immediately for the road team, and it sure helped them because Toronto controlled play for the first five minutes, which benefited them in scoring the game’s first goal.
The top line was attacking in the offensive zone, and Matthew Knies, who drove to the net, got tripped up and drew a penalty. On the delayed penalty, Mitch Marner circled the net, found his linemate Auston Matthews, and riffled his 42nd of the season past Joonas Korpisalo.
That goal from Matthews marked his first goal against the Senators since May 2021.
The pressure from the Maple Leafs continued right after Matthews opened the scoring. The third line, with Noah Gregor on it for now, thought they had scored again, doubling the lead, but was challenged by Ottawa for offside, wiping the goal off the board. Morgan Rielly threw the puck cross-crease to Max Domi, and it redirected off his skate and in.
It wasn’t an overly dominant period for Toronto, but it’s safe to say they looked like the better team through the first ten minutes. However, with roughly five minutes to go, Ottawa started to come on. They were stuck at four shots for what seemed like forever but started to generate more looks on Martin Jones, and with a little over two minutes left in the period, Ottawa tied the game up.
It started with Morgan Rielly breaking the puck out to Mitch Marner. He skated through the neutral zone, looked like he got tripped, turned the puck over, and the Senators had a 3-on-1. Jones made the initial save, but Claude Giroux cleaned up the rebound, backhanding his 16th of the season past Jones.
Toronto entered the first intermission tied 1-1 and outshot 10-8.
After giving up a late goal in the first period due to a neutral zone turnover, the Toronto Maple Leafs did it yet again at the beginning of the second period, and Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 14th of the season on a breakaway to give his team the 2-1 lead.
You could see Ottawa start to build off that end to the first period. They got more looks in the offensive zone, forced Toronto into multiple turnovers, and didn’t give them much to work with.
Fortunately, Toronto managed to get the next goal to avoid going down by two. Off an offensive zone face-off, Matthews fed Marner, who threw it toward the net, and Matthew Knies swatted his ninth goal of the season past Korpisalo to tie the game up at two.
Not even a full two minutes went by, a missed high-stick on Jake McCabe, actually, an ignored high-stick on Jake McCabe, benefited the Senators in the offensive zone, which helped them score roughly 20 seconds after the stick infraction, as Shane Pinto beat Martin Jones from distance for his third of the season to restore Ottawa’s lead.
It didn’t get any better for the road team after that go-ahead goal by Pinto. Another turnover from a Maple Leafs player led directly to a Senators goal. Jake McCabe and Simon Benoit played a small game of catch, and Benoit went to clear the zone off the neutral zone boards but got picked off by Josh Norris. He gained the blue line, cut to the middle and ripped his 13th of the season in the top corner.
William Nylander would take the game’s first penalty with roughly two minutes to go in the period after a handful of missed calls, sending Ottawa to their first power play.
Toronto entered the second intermission down 4-2, yet outshot Ottawa 20-19 through two periods.
Down by two goals on the road, albeit more than 50% of the crowd were Toronto fans, the Maple Leafs were up against a difficult task if they wanted to come back and defeat the Senators, splitting the season series. It’s not like they haven’t come from behind multiple goal leads before, but it’s not something you want to be doing all the time. That, and the fact that Ottawa always plays Toronto like it’s their Stanley Cup final, will make it difficult.
It starts with one, and Toronto finally beat Korpisalo again after a handful of great looks earlier in the game. After having an earlier goal called back due to offside, Max Domi potted home his fifth of the season – first goal in 10 games – to cut the deficit in half. After watching that celebration from him, you could tell that goal was important to him and the bottom six.
Now that they were back within one goal, they couldn’t afford any more mistakes, gifting the Senators goals. Turnovers were an issue in this game, but if they cleaned that up, they had a chance to come back and win. They continued to press, looking for the tying goal, but Joonas Korpisalo, who seems to play his best against Toronto all the time, turned everything aside after the Domi goal.
Despite plenty of looks and eventually pulling Martin Jones for the extra attacker, Toronto couldn’t solve the Senators’ netminder for a fourth time. With five seconds remaining, Ridly Greig took a slap-shot to score the empty net. There’s no need for that. Morgan Rielly took matters into his own hands, showing his emotion, and delivered a dangerous cross-check to the side of Greig’s face, which created a massive scrum. It wasn’t a wise move from Rielly either, but you had to know something was coming after taking a full-on slap shot less than 10 feet from the net with little to no time left.
Rielly isn’t that type of player – we know that. But sometimes emotions get the best of you, and if a player is going to slap shot the puck into your net with seconds remaining, you’re going to get mad. I guarantee that if Greig shot it normally or walked it in, Rielly would’ve skated past him and gone to the bench.
Who stood out:
Well, that was a crazy game.
There were a couple of slumps broken in last night’s game. Matthew Knies and Max Domi ended their goalless drought, respectively, helping contribute on the scoreboard. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get the win. Auston Matthews continued to do what he does best – score goals. He recorded his 42nd goal of the season in just game 49.
Although every member of that line was a combined minus-eight, and they weren’t outstanding, John Tavares had at least three glorious looks in tight on Korpisalo in the first half of the game but couldn’t find a way to extend his point streak to four games.
Another player I thought had some good looks was Max Domi. Now, Domi was rewarded with a goal, snapping a drought. It felt like he was around the net a lot last night and easily could’ve had more than one or two (if his first one wasn’t called back for offside).
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Tuesday night when they return home to begin a three-game homestand against the St. Louis Blues. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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