James Reimer got the start tonight and Mark Masters had an interesting tidbit on that front:
Eddie Lack trains with Reimer in summer; they text back & forth during season & the possibility of a goalie duel tonight has been raised— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 21, 2016
Other small lineup changes were made, including fully reinstating the line of Leo Komarov, Nazem Kadri, and Michael Grabner, which in turn meant that Tyler Bozak, Shawn Matthias, and P.A. Parenteau. Josh Leivo and Frank Corrado continued to sit as healthy scratches.
The Canes got out to a hot start, peppering Reimer with several good tipped shots, but the Leafs' goaltender's positioning was great. Martin Marincin took the game's first penalty at 4:32 and although the Leafs were able to kill it off, Jordan Staal absolutely blew by Morgan Rielly for a great chance on net and fortunately missed.
Carolina had opened a 9-1 lead in shots by roughly the halfway mark of the period, which marked the second consecutive game the Leafs accorded so many extra chances to their opponents.
The Leafs were gifted a soft call and picked up a power play which helped them get a few shots on net, but the Leafs, who were 0-for-17 on the power play in their previous 5 games, were again unable to cash in.
Gradually, Toronto regained control of the game, putting more of their own shots on net, several coming from the Kadri line, which was all the more impressive, as they again drew the top defensive assignment of the evening, going head-to-head with the Staal line.
The Leafs went back to the power play with just over 3 minutes left, as Marincin drew a holding-the-stick penalty on Jeff Skinner, who he had already had a couple run-ins with. The Leafs were again unable to generate anything in the way of good chances.
By the end of one, the Leafs lead the Canes in shots 12-11, and the 5v5 Corsi For was 12-11 as well.
Early in the second period, Dion Phaneuf and Jordan Staal exchanged penalties and the teams went 4-on-4 for two minutes, during which Bozak made an absolutely brilliant rush past three different Carolina players for a great chance in tight on net, but Eddie Lack made his first big save of the night.
The Buds gradually took control of the game over the course of the second period, even if they wound up missing the net more than they probably should have. They hemmed the Hurricanes in for multiple shifts, jumping out to a 7-0 lead on the shot clock and forcing the Canes to cough up the puck repeatedly at their own blue line.
Reimer had basically nothing to do all period until with just over 6 minutes left, the Staal line got running around on the Kadri line, and just as Staal came out from behind the net for a dangerous wraparound, Kadri was forced to take a penalty.
Grabner jumped all over a giveaway by Carolina rookie defenceman Brett Pesce to go in all alone on a shorthanded breakaway, but Lack was again up to the task.
Phaneuf took a delay of game penalty shortly thereafter, and Reimer was forced to make several great saves, including a tipped point shot that changed direction entirely. The Canes' power play looked dangerous all night, generating a good number of shots and several good chances with quick puck movement around the perimeter.
Through two the shots were 25-22 Toronto, but a better indication of the flow of 5v5 play is the corresponding Corsi numbers at 27-19 for the Leafs.
The Staal line and the Skinner line both started the third period with jump and hemmed the Leafs in for a couple of minutes, and Skinner tipped a dangerous shot on goal to Reimer, who came up with the save. It was Skinner's 6th shot of the contest.
The Canes began to press as the 3rd period wore on, and with the shots 9-2 for the Canes and the Bozak line unable to regain control of the puck in the Leafs' zone, Bozak was forced to take a tripping penalty. Victor Rask hit the post, but in the end, the Canes remained unable to solve Reimer.
At the end of the third, still no one was able to score, but Carolina had out-shot the Leafs 14-3 and 37-27 overall, Reimer being the big difference in the third. It was on to OT.
Komarov set Kadri up beautifully on a 2-on-1 and then Rielly set up Parenteau for two good chances in extra time, but Lack came up big on both.
Finally, it was Jordan Staal who blew by Bozak in the neutral zone who started a Carolina rush, and then followed up his own play, chipping home a rebound over a sprawling Reimer to end the game.
Notes on individual players:
- James Reimer was easily the Leafs' best player tonight. He stopped 39 of 40 shots and had no hope on the winner.
- Tyler Bozak's game tonight was one of contrasts. He covered for defencemen well, used a quick stick to break up several plays while playing defensively in the neutral zone, and had a couple beautiful offensive chances. On the other hand, his 5v5 Corsi numbers weren't great, and he was forced to take a penalty for tripping late in the third.
- Martin Marincin stepped forward to pinch on a few plays, intercepting Carolina breakout passes well. He also gave Jeff Skinner a hard time on repeated occasions, which Leafs fans should appreciate. It would be good to see him get more ice, but then, when a game goes more than halfway through the third without a goal, you probably want to give your offensively gifted players some ice.
- P.A. Parenteau had 5 shots to lead the team in that regard.
- The Kadri line started the game out as the Leafs' strongest line but struggled more against the Staal line as the game wore on.
- Leo Komarov made several strong defensive plays, reading Carolina breakouts well and disrupting them, blocking several big shots while on the penalty kill, and putting several shots on net himself.
- Morgan Rielly had a quietly effective night, notwithstanding getting burned by Staal, racking up the best 5v5 Corsi +/- on the team on the evening.