Photo credit:Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Nylanders’ line completes the comeback, Maple Leafs defeat the Red Wings 3-2
By Joseph Zita3 months ago
It’s been a long time since the Toronto Maple Leafs played a hockey game after they hosted and defeated the Vancouver Canucks on home ice last Saturday. But they were back in action early this afternoon as they took on the Detroit Red Wings to begin their 2023 NHL Global Series.
Detroit played yesterday against the Ottawa Senators, so coming into this game, Toronto was playing a tired opponent with their third-string goalie in net, which was his first start of the season.
The game started with a nice touch from Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe. As we know, Keefe isn’t shy about starting certain players in certain games that mean certain things to said players, no matter the opponent or the starting lineup on the other side of the ice. Today, he elected to start Toronto’s three Swedes, who were in the lineup. William Nylander, Calle Jarnkrok, and William Lagesson were announced as part of the Maple Leafs’ starting lineup against Detroit.
It was clear that Toronto hadn’t played a game in almost a week, and despite Detroit playing the day prior, they were a little cleaner with their play compared to the Maple Leafs. Both teams were handed power plays within the first 10 minutes of the first period, but both penalty kill units for either team did a solid job of killing off the penalties to keep the game even at zero.
There weren’t many chances for either side through the first 20 minutes of play. Toronto looked rusty and were slowly finding their game after not playing for a week, and Detroit, coming off a game yesterday, were tired but looked like a team that played recently. The Maple Leafs had a couple of good looks, but nothing too crazy that Alex Lyon couldn’t save. Detroit was handed a power play late in the first period after Tyler Bertuzzi was whistled for slashing. However, Ilya Samsonov and Toronto’s penalty kill did another solid job on the penalty kill to keep the game tied heading into the first intermission.
After some missed calls against Detroit toward the end of the first period, the Maple Leafs were headed to their second power play just 16 seconds into the second period as JT Compher went to the box for holding. However, similar to their first power play, Toronto couldn’t solve Lyon, and the game remained tied at zero, until Moritz Seider and Max Domi went at each other at the side of the Red Wings net, and both players went off with penalties.
As both teams were trying to find the game’s first goal, it appeared Toronto had opened the scoring, but after review, it was determined Mitch Marner did not score after Jake Walman knocked off Detroit’s net as Toronto had a scoring chance.
Detroit went back the other way, trying to dig the puck past Samsonov but Morgan Rielly took a penalty by playing the puck with his hand in the crease and the Red Wings were awarded a penalty shot. Daniel Sprong was the one who went to take the shot, and he made Samsonov look silly to take the 1-0 lead.
Down 1-0 and not playing their best hockey, Toronto was in for a tough challenge, and it didn’t get easier as Detroit would score the next goal of the game just under two minutes later, as Lucas Raymond sniped his seventh of the season past Samsonov to give his team the multi-goal lead.
In the final six and a half minutes of the period, Toronto struggled to produce any offence, and they entered the second intermission with just 13 shots on goal and down 2-0.
Toronto needed to have their best period of the game in the third period, and I know that is easy to say, given they were trailing by two goals, but it was true. Toronto hadn’t looked good up to this point of the game, and if they were going to come back and win this game, they needed all four lines to start playing better.
Right on cue, the man on a 15-game point streak heading into this game went to work and set up Bertuzzi for an easy tap-in to get Toronto within one goal just 3:50 into the third period.
With Toronto getting on the board with an early third-period goal, they continued to pour on the chances as they were looking for the tying goal, but Alex Lyon understood the assignment and kept the game at 2-1. However, after a couple of controversial non-calls, Moritz Seider would take a poorly timed penalty to put Toronto on the man advantage, and that was a mistake as Nylander roofed his 11th of the season past Lyon to tie the game at two.
The Maple Leafs fans in Sweden were loving this comeback from their favourite team, and they didn’t stop there. Bertuzzi, who had probably his best game as a Leaf in this one, set Tavares up with a beautiful pass back door to give the Maple Leafs the 3-2 lead with his seventh of the season.
What once was a 2-0 deficit for Toronto heading into the third period quickly turned into a 3-2 lead late in the game, and despite the Red Wings trying to mount a push with their goalie pulled, Samsonov and the Maple Leafs shut it down and picked up the impressive 3-2 win.
Who stood out:
Through the first 40 minutes of the game, the Maple Leafs didn’t look all that impressive, and I don’t have to be the one to tell you that. However, one line that seemed to be generating the best chances despite only 13 shots from the team entering the third period was the second line of Bertuzzi, Tavares and Nylander.
Although they didn’t find the scoresheet in the first two periods, this line turned it up a notch in the third period and helped mount this comeback for Toronto. Bertuzzi, Tavares and Nylander combined for eight points, and each member on that line scored a goal in this game (Nyalnder’s goal came on the power play).
The other three lines had their moments in this one, but to me, they didn’t sustain the same amount of pressure in the offensive zone as the second line and didn’t score either. But all that matters is Toronto found a way to come back in this one to pick up the two points against a divisional opponent.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Sunday on Sportsnet when they close out the 2023 NHL Global Series against the Minnesota Wild. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 am ET/5:00 am PT.
Recent articles from Joseph Zita