The final game of the Leafs' rookie tournament saw the Baby Leafs take on the Baby Pens. The first began as up-tempo as any of the others, with the Leafs testing the Penguins' goalie Matt Murray early on.
The game was less than three minutes old when Jack Rodewald scored by tipping the puck on net and then collecting his own rebound. Stephen Desrocher and Brady Vail picked up the assists on the goal. Rodewald has had an impressive rookie tournament, tallying points in each of the three games, certainly improving his odds of finding a contract with the Marlies.
Despite getting two power plays (and seven seconds of a third that carried over into the second period) the Leafs looked less dominant in the first period than in perhaps any other they had played so far in the tournament. The shot total was 10-9 in favour of the Leafs, which should say something about how effective the team has generally been at controlling play in other games.
On the power play that carried over into the second, hometown hero Mitch Marner notched his first goal of the tournament, with assists going to Kasperi Kapanen and Rinat Valiev.
The Leafs continued to carry the play at 5-on-5 as Nikolai Skladnichenko made it 3-0 on a nice wrister that went over the shoulder of Murray. Scott Eansor picked up the lone assist on the goal before picking up a penalty at 12:43 of the second that the team killed off with ease.
Toronto wouldn't touch the puck before going back on the penalty kill as Michael Joly got called for cross checking, and Pittsburgh came close to scoring, hitting the post while Soshnikov, Verhaeghe were on the ice penalty killing.
With 2:01 remaining in the second, Pittsburgh scored its first goal of the game. Sahir Gill tapped home the goal with another Penguin driving the net. Daniel Sprong, who has also shown a lot of offensive flair at this tournament, picked up an assist, as did Miles Liberati.
Shots at the end of two periods were 23 for Toronto and 16 for Pittsburgh.
The Leafs began the third period on the penalty kill, as Rinat Valiev took a hooking penalty. Overall, Valiev has had a very strong tournament, showcasing his passing ability in his own zone as well as on the power play. He also has shown solid positioning by reading plays well and keeping himself between his check and his goal.
At 17:06 of the third, the Leafs would strike again, this time on the power play. A great passing sequence between all five players on the ice ended with Marner passing it to Vail, who slid it out front to Joly.
Next, came two goals scored in quick succession. Leafs' goalie Garret Sparks had a Daniel Sprong shot trickle in at 4:05 into the period, only to be have Andrew Nielsen score nine seconds later with assists to Joly and Vail.
Joly and Vail certainly made the most of their rookie tournament tryout, as Joly was listed as being simply on an amateur tryout contract, while Vail was on an AHL contract with a professional tryout offer.
The Buds kept pouring it on, as Nylander absolutely sniped the top corner for an unassisted goal on a sharp angle. Although the goal was unassisted, that line was buzzing for a while in the offensive zone before the goal was scored. Honestly, Nylander didn't even look like he cared very much about this game (and why should he?) and he still looked great.
14:04 into the third, Pens' defender Derrick Pouliot absolutely crushed Mitch Marner into the end boards and took a penalty for cross-checking. Marner would be slow getting up, but returned to the game on the ensuing power play.
By the end of the third, the Leafs had managed to put together a convincing 6-2 win, and tally a 37-32 lead on the shot clock.
Overall, what was on display here was symptomatic of two teams in very different places. The Penguins have sold off a lot of prospects to win as much as they can in the near future, while the Leafs have been busy stockpiling high-end talent, and the Kessel trade that brought Kapanen to the Leafs is just one example of this type of asset management. It makes sense that the Leafs' talent won out in this one.