After a disappointing first game in Ottawa, the Leafs looked to bounce back and get a win on the first Hockey Night in Canada of the season. Jack Campbell and Nick Robertson replaced Frederik Andersen and Alexander Barabonov, so maybe a bit of deck chair shuffling will change the momentum.
The Leafs came out in the first period with a very similar performance to last night’s first, as they did a good job maintaining possession and creating scoring chances. Unfortunately, hockey is a cruel mistress sometimes, as midway through the first period, a Nikita Zaitsev shot went straight at teammate Nick Paul, who then gets the loose puck past Jack Campbell to give the Sens a one goal lead.
It seemed like we were in for another rough night against the Sens, but thankfully a one goal lead is very easy to give up. Four minutes later, Mitch Marner makes a great play to corral a TJ Brodie stretch pass, skates the puck into the offensive zone and drops it for Joe Thornton, who walks in and fires it past Matt Murray to tie the game, and get his first goal as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
Some bad news struck the Leafs though, as Nick Robertson got hurt off of a hit from Drake Batherson.
That momentum carried into the second period as 1:10 in, Marner collects the puck off a tied faceoff, and his shot deflects off of Erik Gudbranson and in to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead.
The teams exchanged 5-on-3’s with plenty of chances, but no goals, including a couple great saves from Campbell to keep the 2-1 lead. The Leafs still played well, but there was definitely more chances for the Sens, as the expected goals was 58.2% for the Leafs in this period.
The Leafs got an early power play to start the third, and they made no mistake as Auston got his first of the season after wiring the puck off another Mitch Marner drop pass to make it 3-1. And it was a bullet.
The Sens put on a bit more pressure after that as the clock started winding down, and the panic began as third overall pick Tim Stutzle got his first NHL goal off a one-timer to make it 3-2.
The pressure was on after that as the Sens got plenty of chances to try and tie it, but the Leafs held on for a 3-2 win.
This was a much better game from the Leafs. Top to bottom, they drove play, and while the offense wasn’t entirely there, they played well enough defensively to counteract it. They played a bit worse in the third, but that’s to be expected with a two goal lead for most of it.
The biggest story going in was Andersen and Campbell, and after a solid start from Campbell, I’d probably go back to him again on Monday and reward him for it. That, and it hopefully motivates Andersen to play better and realize that he has to earn the net back.
It’s also nice to see the Matthews line play well tonight as well. They struggled a bit through the first two games, so seeing Thornton, Marner, and Matthews all get their first goals of the season is a big relief for them and Leafs fans. I still think that top line doesn’t last all season, but it’s nice to see it finally working.
Most Valuable Leaf
This honour goes to Jumbo Joe, as he not only got his first goal as a Toronto Maple Leaf, he also got an assist on Matthews’ goal, and also drove play really well tonight, leading the Leafs with an 86.97% 5v5 CF% and an 89.42% 5v5 xGF%. He looked a lot more comfortable on the top line tonight than he did in his first two games.
Least Valuable Leaf
Honestly, everyone had a great game, so no one really stood out to me as bad or least valuable, so my pick is Power Play Wayne Simmonds. Seriously, that needs to stop, he’s killing me.
Tweet of the Night
I mean, where’s the lie?
The Leafs look to carry the momentum for another win on Monday as they play the Winnipeg Jets. There’s a chance they may not play due to COVID-19 concerns on the Jets end, but as of right now, the game will be played.
And finally, here’s some stats in visual form courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey.