Photo credit:David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The Maple Leafs win streak comes to an end as the Blackhawks comeback to beat Toronto
By Joseph Zita3 months ago
After a successful trip to Sweden for the 2023 NHL Global Series, the Toronto Maple Leafs were back in action today after a week between games, as they travelled to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks for the second and final time this season. Both teams are going in opposite directions. Toronto, who were on a four-game winning streak heading into this one, has Stanley Cup aspirations. Chicago, who have lost five in a row entering this matchup, understands the playoffs are probably not in the cards this season.
Despite playing their fifth game in two weeks, including two overseas in Sweden a week ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs came out of the gates flying in this one. They didn’t look like a team who hadn’t played in a week, and if it wasn’t for Arvid Soderblom early on, the score could’ve been 3-0 Toronto five minutes in.
Although Soderblom had all the answers for the early chances Toronto generated, the third line found a way to beat him to give their team the 1-0 lead just seven minutes into the first period. It was a quick play that started in Toronto’s zone, with Mark Giordano breaking the puck out. He found Domi streaking into the offensive zone and sent a perfect saucer pass to Nick Robertson, who potted home his third of the season.
Unfortunately, that lead did not last long for Toronto, as a failed clearing attempt by Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner kept the puck in their zone, and Jason Dickinson put one past Samsonov to tie the game at one. It was not pretty and a shot that Samsonov should have had.
Luckily, Toronto was awarded a power play after Seth Jones was whistled for hooking Marner after he and Matthews snuck behind the Blackhawks defence for a scoring chance. Despite the man advantage to try and get the lead back, both units couldn’t find the back of the net.
Although the Maple Leafs had a solid period, controlling the game and the shot differential, they took a couple of lazy penalties, including their seventh too-many-men penalty with just seconds remaining in the period, as both teams entered the first intermission tied at one.
The second period began with Toronto killing off a penalty, but fortunately for them, Tyler Johnson negated that due to his tripping penalty on Giordano just 22 seconds in, and both teams were headed to some four-on-four hockey to begin the second period. With roughly 30 seconds left in the four-on-four, TJ Brodie and Calle Jarnkrok combined on a beautiful play to put the Maple Leafs up 2-1, as Brodie threaded the needle to find Jarnkrok back door for an easy tap-in. Max Domi also picked up a second assist on this goal to give him 11 on the season.
Just over two minutes later, as the partial power play expired for Toronto, Sheldon Keefe threw the fourth line over the boards. For the first time this season, they scored a goal with Ryan Reaves on the ice, as the 36-year-old put home his first as a Maple Leaf, with David Kampf and Jake McCabe picking up the helpers.
Up 3-1 and controlling play, the Maple Leafs looked like they were going to build on their lead and walk away with a win. However, the Blackhawks cut the lead in half with Jason Dickinson’s second goal of the game.
After Dickinson’s second goal, the Blackhawks found their feet and dominated the last five minutes of the period, as they were looking for the equalizer heading into the third period.
It went from bad to worse for Toronto to begin the third period. Just 15 seconds in, who else but Jason Dickinson to tie the game, as he recorded his first career hat trick, and a once 3-1 game is now 3-3 after a brilliant start to the game for the Maple Leafs.
There was a sense that Chicago was going to mount a big push this period, given they were down 3-1 at one point and cut the deficit in half heading into the third period. But once Dickinson tied things up, the Blackhawks didn’t want to stop there. They continued to pour on the chances, outshooting Toronto 13-9 in the third period, coming close to more goals, and despite neither team scoring again this period, they were headed to overtime.
It was an entertaining overtime period. Both teams traded chances, and if it wasn’t next goal wins, there easily could’ve been at least four or five goals between the two teams if it wasn’t for both goalies doing their job. Toronto had an early chance off the stick of Matthews, but Soderblom was there to deny him with his right pad.
Chicago had their chances, including a couple of looks from Connor Bedard, but Samsonov’s glove was snagging the pucks out of mid-air. Max Domi, the former Blackhawk, also had a glorious look to end the game and record his first goal as a Maple Leaf but couldn’t beat Soderblom from in close.
However, probably the best chance for either team in overtime came off the stick of Nylander. At this point of the game, Nylander had been held without a point and needed just one to extend his point streak to 18 games. He was sprung on a breakaway with a chance to end the game, but the hockey gods did not want him to score the game-winner, as he backhanded the puck off the left post, crossbar and right post, saving Soderblom’s behind on that one.
The game of hockey is truly a game of inches and bounces. Nylander hit iron three times on one shot and wasn’t rewarded with a goal. Yet Chicago, who shot the puck wide on Samsonov, got a lucky bounce that placed the puck in Toronto’s blue paint, and rookie Kevin Korchinksi banged home the loose puck to give the Blackhawks the 4-3 win, snapping their five-game losing streak.
Who stood out:
The second line of Bertuzzi, Tavares and Nylander came out flying and easily could’ve scored a couple of goals within the first five minutes of the first period if it wasn’t for Soderblom. They didn’t find their way on the scoresheet today, but if you watched the game, you saw that they could’ve gotten on the board a couple of times, especially after Nylander’s triple bounce off iron in overtime.
I also thought the third line had a bounce-back game after being held without a point in Sweden. Robertson, Domi and Jarnkrok combined for four points and teamed up on Toronto’s first goal today. Max Domi also improved his assist total this season to 11, seven of them coming in the past seven games.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game tomorrow night on Sportsnet against Kyle Dubas and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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