In a high-scoring battle between leaky goaltenders, the Leafs had goals from Tyler Bozak (PPG), James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Rielly (shorthanded), and Daniel Winnik, but somehow made Tampa look like the ghost of its old self as the team took Jonathan Bernier for five, with the game-winning goal by Vladislav Namestnikov two minutes into the three-on-three overtime.
Down in the dressing room, Bernier faced down a crowd of reporters, all asking why the Leafs lost the game. "I wanted to get a W," Bernier said. And a little later, "Pucks hit me in the chest. I felt like I had good position." And finally, "That's the NHL, I've got to find a way to make those last saves."
Bernier did not look pleased with his result, and it was clear why. This far into the season, he's still looking for his first NHL win, although tonight added to his overtime column. His goaltending, which seemed so effortless in the majority of his starts in the AHL, was suddenly leaky (he ended with a SV% of .815), and this was the story of the game -- Leafs outshot Tampa Bay (37-27 SOG) and scored a lot (usually you can win a game with 4 goals), but still lost. If it's any consolation, Bernier did not give up the first shot; he gave up the second.
Babcock addressed this issue too, that finally the Leafs had goal support for the game, but couldn't get a win. "You don't want to give up as much as we did. 86 [Nikita Kucherov] and 77 [Victor Hedman] had good nights. We were up 3-1. I don't like to see us giving up the goal going into the third. (...) Third period was right there for the taking. They executed plays, we didn't execute enough." Babcock pointed out that Bernier made an important save near the end of the third on a Marchessault shot, however, to keep the game tied and earn the Leafs a point.
Reporters asked him what he thought of the penalty kill, and Babcock gave a short yet enthusiastic response: "It's outstanding, isn't it."
Perhaps the most outstanding moment for the penalty kill was this one: Leafs successfully killed off a 5-on-3, and Morgan Rielly took advantage of a moment in the 5-on-4 when Jonathan Marchessault broke his stick to grab the puck and book it down the ice. Nikita Nesterov, Bolts' youngest D, tried his best to defend from the two-on-one of Rielly and Nick Spaling coming down on Vasilevskiy's right. After Rielly faked a pass, Nesterov misread him so that Rielly could shoot undefended to beat Vasy glove side. The initial pass that sprang Rielly out of the D-zone came from Leo Komarov, who managed to dig the puck out from behind a stickless Marchessault to jumpstart the play.
broken stick on a 5-on-3 leads to the Leafs goal cc @tanyarezak pic.twitter.com/bg8QjuRImL— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 16, 2015
- Things that were bad included a span in which Tampa had 3 goals on 9 shots, and some of the worst moments came when Roman Polak was on the ice.
- There was a lot of focus on Steven Stamkos tonight. And much like the Leafs' goaltending, he was disappointing. He was not first in ice time for Tampa -- he was second, coming in after linemate Kucherov at 21:40 to Kucherov's 21:42. He also showed a hesitancy about backchecking that people noticed (enough that Tampa fans were mad about it on twitter) and was kept off the scoresheet. Granted, Dion Phaneuf looked like he probably read Stamkos's diary, he could read his one-timer so well. Still, as a Bolts fan, it was embarrassing to watch Stamkos fail to produce on the power play.
- When asked how he felt about Tyler Bozak's 100th goal, Babcock said, "Good for Bozie, he deserves it. I'm on him about his play without the puck. That's his challenge as the year goes on to do that, to become a bigger leader on our team."
- 29-year-old Syracuse Crunch call-up Mike Blunden Has not scored an NHL goal since 2012. He was born in Toronto, and the game happened on his birthday.
- On Corrado's limited ice time (8:10), Babcock said, "He didn't play a ton. He played his off side. I liked him. I played him when we were down, not when we were up." Babcock got some pushback from a journalist who pointed out that Corrado wasn't played after Anton Stralman's goal at the end of the second, and Babcock said, "Look, there were only 30 seconds left."
- The Leafs now have points in 12 of the last 17 games.
- War on Ice link. Tampa didn't do much right. Spaling, Winnik, and Grabner pretty much owned Stamkos, Namestnikov, and Kucherov, and maybe Tampa didn't quite deserve this win.