One of the most important storylines in this game was a defensive one: Nazem Kadri and his linemates Leo Komarov and Nikita Soshnikov shut down Alexander Ovechkin's line very effectively. The Leafs carried much of the play even when "The Great Eight" was on the ice, which gave the rest of the Leafs' forwards the opportunity to work against lesser competition. Kadri had a beautiful goal, even if Backstorm had one late in the game with Ovi on the ice.
The second most important storyline was that Mitchell Marner was Mitchell Marner. He made terriffic pass after terriffic pass, and was easily the best player on the ice for either team through most of the game. He was hard on the puck while backchecking in the neutral zone, created offensive chances, and almost had one of his own on a near-breakaway in the third period.
William Nylander was out injured with an upper-body injury, and while the Leafs certainly missed his offensive prowess, Nikita Soshnikov looked great stepping up in his absence. A line of Komarov-Kadri-Soshnikov is about a pest-like as it gets, and Sosh didn't look out of place on the PP, either.
Also worth adding is that Frederik Andersen had a good game. Although there was perhaps only one save that stood out as worthy of the highlight reel, the fact that he didn't have to be acrobatic speaks well of his positioning and ability to read plays.
The Leafs dominated the opening frame, out-shooting the Caps 15-6 and forced them to take three penalties. It was borderline embarrassing for Washington.
At 17:25 Matt Martin was the beneficiary of a fantastic Mitch Marner pass that sent him in alone on Braden Holtby to open the scoring. To Martin's credit, he made a great shot, ringing it in off the post for his second of the season.
Matt Martin scores on a breakaway and puts the Leafs up 1-0. Great feed by Marner. pic.twitter.com/KDeWywfdtH— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) November 27, 2016
Jake Gardiner hit the post at 12:04 of the first, as the Leafs hammered the Caps through the first eight minutes, running up the shot total to 9-1. James van Riemsdyk hit the post again at 11:18 with a through-the-legs move while the Leafs were on the power play.
The second period was more hard-fought than the first, with the Caps out-shooting the Leafs 14-11, but the Leafs managed to kill off a 5-on-3 and add to their lead.
With Peter Holland back on the Leafs' fourth line, they were back to being more effective. After they scored in the first, Martin fed Holland for a near-breakaway chance that he just missed on, but drew a penalty for anyway. On the ensuing power play, Morgan Rielly flew into the zone, and Marner fed van Riemsdyk in front who, with the help of Nikita Soshnikov, shovelled home a power play goal.
James van Riemsdyk makes it 2-0 Leafs (ref cam angle) pic.twitter.com/tg6f8Urw44— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) November 27, 2016
Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 27, 2016
Later in the period, Dimitri Orlov laid an absolutely garbage hit on van Riemsdyk:
Here's Dimitri Orlov's hit on James van Riemsdyk pic.twitter.com/f2b8VlqFjS— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) November 27, 2016
On the power play that followed, Nazem Kadri absolutely wired a shot off the post with 2:31 left in the second frame, nearly giving the Leafs a 3-0 lead.
Auston Matthews was not going to be forgotten. Just 22 second into the period, he collected a rebound off a Matt Hunwick shot and snapped home the rebound for his ninth goal of the season.
The Caps eventually got on the board with a strange, broken play that wound up going through Frederik Andersen before Niklas Backstrom tapped it home. With 10:30 left in regulation, the Caps had some life.
Then, Nazem Kadri happened. Hoo boy.
The Caps began to press harder in the third and got a lucky bounce for the efforts in the Leafs' zone, with a fluky bounce that eluded Andersen. Oh well.
The Leafs wrapped up a 4-2 victory looking entirely convincing against the defending President Trophy winners. They'll go on the road against some Western Conference teams next, so this is a good way to kick it off.