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Recap: Maple Leafs win it for Gord Downie 6-3 over Red Wings

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Auston, Willie, Zach, Connor, Naz, and Reemer all score in Patrick Marleau’s 1,500th game

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Patrick Marleau (12) leads his team mates in a salute to their fans after a win over Detroit Red Wings at Air Canada Centre.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Canadian icon, and front-man of the Tragically Hip, Gord Downie passed away last night after his bout with cancer. The Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as Sportsnet’s coverage, honoured Gord with a pregame video and by playing his songs all night.

On to the game. The Toronto Maple Leafs come home to the ACC and drop the hammer on the Detroit Red Wings, beating them by a score of 6-3. Six different Leafs scored on the night, with Connor Brown getting the game winning goal at the end of the first period.

Let’s get the party started.

First Period

In his 1,500th game, Patrick Marleau almost gets the scoring started less than 30 seconds in. Nazem Kadri beats out an icing call, throws the puck towards Marleau who has Henrik Zetterberg hot on his coattails. Marleau, unfortunately, shoots it wide.

1-0

The game has been slow up until this point. Suddenly a player whose number includes the digits “3” and “4” comes speeding in from the wing and snipes top shelf on Jimmy Howard. No, it wasn’t Auston Matthews, that comes later. It was Naz! Kadri beats Jimmy Howard top shelf, blocker side, clean. Not to foreshadow too much, but this would be a bit of a theme for Howard in this game.

2-0

Not to be out-done, the other line centered by a player with the digits “3” and “4” comes on the ice and scores a goal of their own. Zach Hyman tips a point shot from Morgan Rielly off his foot and in. It takes only 25 seconds but the Buds have a 2-0 lead! More good news, Rielly’s primary assist was the 100th assist in his young career. Congrats, Morgan!

So, we know the Leafs can score, what about the goaltending? Gustav Nyquist has a grade-A scoring chance from the middle of the slot and Curtis McElhinney makes a lovely pad save. Dear Leafs Nation, it’s time to take a collective sigh of relief. I would like to ask what the heck the defense was doing there on that play, but I’ll let it go, this once. Just Win Baby.

2-1

I think I spoke too soon. Oops. Zetterberg takes us back to 1993 with a wrap-a-round chance that Backup-hinney can’t get back for and puts the puck into the empty cage. Goal. That’s the thing about McElhinney, he has good reflexes but he has to move way too much in order to make a save better goalies can make with much less effort. The moment a forward shifts the direction of the shot or forces McElhinney to move, he’s swimming.

Speaking of swimming, (I’m sorry, these are writing themselves) the defense turns into a pretzel as the Detroit forwards circle around the right side of the offensive zone. Anthony Mantha gets a clear shot from right below the goal line and McElhinney makes a wonderful pad save to stop him.

3-1

Trevor Daley gives the puck away at his own blueline and Hyman sends the puck to the one, the only, the Boogeyman, Auston Matthews. His shot, a carbon copy of the one he had on Carey Price last Saturday, beats Jimmy Howard high blocker. Niklas Kronwall can’t do a single thing, and how can he against the best player in the world right now? YES I SAID IT!

That goal knocks Jimmy out of the net, he’s pulled after three goals on four shots, good for a 0.250 SV%. Yikes.

4-1

The Leafs are not letting your poor recapper have even a minute to breathe as Downtown Connor Brown snipes on Petr Mrazek, a mere 40 seconds after Matthews’ goal. Downtown is standing at the half-wall, and with as many as five players standing between him and the goal, Brown places a picture perfect shot through all the legs and past Mrazek. It’s four goals on five shots!

Trivia! Which Leaf DIDN’T score on their shot in this period. Answer will be in the comments!

I’m pretty sure the Red Wings had two powerplays in this period, but either the Leafs penalty kill is amazing or Detroits’ is terrible so there was nothing of note to report.

Second Period

The first five minutes of the second period have been pretty quiet, in terms of goals. But the Leafs have spent that time bringing their PDO back down to Earth. The shot attempts after five minutes being 7-0 for the blue team.

4-2

Hyman and Jonathan Ericsson are in the box for stick holding and hooking, respectively so the two teams play 4-on-4 for two minutes. In the 4-on-4 Jake Gardiner has trouble feeding the forwards to break into the zone. They eventually get in but Tyler Bozak soon turns the puck over. Jensen speeds in on a 2-on-2, passes to Dylan Larkin who gets a shot on net. But wait, there’s more, Tomas Tatar takes advantage of a sloppy rebound from McElhinney and pots the puck in the net.

I’m not going to say it.

4-3

Ericsson takes a shot from the point and it gets by McElhinney. The play is immediately blown dead as Justin Abdelkader is deemed to have been interfereing with the goalie. Detroit challenges the play and win the challenge. Detroit is immediately back in the game.

Still not saying it.

The Leafs have definitely stopped skating this period, each line has been stuck in their own zone and haven’t been able to get any real offensive zone time. Mrazek was able to make a high-quality glove save on William Nylander earlier in the period, McElhinney just hasn’t been able to do the same.

The second half of the period sees the Maple Leafs in the offensive zone. The first group, Andreas Borgman, Connor Carrick, and the Bozak line turn the tide and earn some desperately needed offensive zone time. The Matthews line, with Rielly and Hainsey build off the good start from their teammates and are able to draw a slashing penalty from Kronwall. And on the powerplay...

5-3

Mike Babcock always says, if you work hard, good things happen. After two hard-working shifts from the Bozak line and the Matthews line, the powerplay is allowed to go to work. Captain Morgan shoots a wrister from the point and he scores! A key aspect of this goal is the layers of screens in front of Mrazek, including James Van Reimsdyk’s butt right in the goalies face. Detroit tried to challenge the call but, after a short review, wes MaCauley deemed the play in front of the net legal.

JVR and Abdelkader both take penalties. On the ensuing 4-on-4 Matthews and Rielly both look ridiculously dynamic in the offensive zone. Matthews subs off at the same time JVR comes out of the box allowing Rielly, and now Marner, have a chance at making the Red Wings look silly. Brown and Van Riemsdyk both had wide open chances off rebounds but Brown shot his wide and JVRs puck skipped over his stick. In other news, my dad is yelling at the television.

Third Period

The Leafs look like they’ve figured out this whole offense and defense thing. Hyman and Nylander were tenacious on the puck below the goal line as they try to feed Matthews for scoring chances. Each time the puck didn’t quite make it to Auston, who surprisingly was left wide open several times, wasn’t able to get the puck through.

Defensively, McElhinney has tried to put on his best Frederik Andersen impression and be a Steady Freddy. A couple nice glove and pad saves have done the job, so far.

The next 10 minutes went as follows:

6-3

The Wings pull the goalie with over three minutes left in the game. Will Ny the Hockey Guy takes the puck in the defensive zone, uses his body to protect the puck in the neutral zone, and seals the deal with his second goal of the season.

The clock ticks down and the best-in-the-league Toronto Maple Leafs win!