The Toronto Maple Leafs threw 19 players at Roberto Luongo but couldn’t beat him more than once, which was not enough in this game; the Leafs lost 2-1 in the shootout. Apparently the Panthers iced a full lineup but I couldn’t tell because Luongo blocked my view with his left pad, right pad, glove, blocker, head...
These were my thoughts during the game.
Right off the bat, Mike Babcock swaps Zach Hyman with Matt Martin. Okay, then.
It is now:
Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitchell Marner
Martin - Patrick Marleau - Connor Brown
The Leafs have been dominating possession early, but somehow they are being outshot 0-11 after eight minutes of play. Four shot attempts also seem low for the amount of time they have spent in the offensive zone.
It sure looks like the Leafs failed to show up in the first period, yet again. But this time, the Buds dominated possession and offensive zone time for the majority of the period, they just couldn’t get the puck on net.
Immediately as I wrote the above paragraph, Brown and Tyler Bozak go back-to-back with shots that Roberto Luongo has to be sharp to stop.
Hyman and Matthews almost connect on a partial two-on-one and it really looks like the Leafs are coming on.
With a little under three minutes remaining, Vincent Trochek hits Hyman with a very late hip-“chek.” Vinny to the box for interference. (Also, me to the box for illegal use of puns.)
The Leafs have two early redirected shots that Luongo has impressively stopped. He’s made several very good saves so far in this game. Not to be outdone, Frederik Andersen is able to go post-to-post while on the penalty kill to stop an Aaron Ekblad one-timer down low at the tail-end of a Marleau hooking penalty.
Nylander and JVR suddenly break on a two-on-one but Willie hesitates and doesn’t take the shot. He tries to pass to JVR but is unable to. The play dies and Leafs Nation begins to tweet “SHOOT!!!”
Minutes later, a trio of top-5 draft picks connect for a grade-A scoring chance, only to be stopped by another top-5 pick. On the rush, Matthews passes to Marner, who sets up Morgan Rielly. He shoots high-glove! But the shot is deflected high and wide by 4th-overall pick in 1997, Roberto Luongo.
Marleau and Borgman are battling Nick Bjudistad and Trochek behind the net. At the same time, Connor Carrick tries to jump in and help his teammates retrieve the puck, but the puck squirts loose just as he moves to help and the puck bounces off of his skate and behind Freddy. The Panthers get a stinker to go in as the first goal of the game.
Near the end of the second period, Matt Martin left the ice favouring his arm and did not return for the third. So the Leafs are down to 11 forwards, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem since they tend to shorten the bench in the third when the team is down.
The third period can be described as the Leafs throwing line after line at the Florida Panthers. They have owned the offensive zone and the vast majority of time with the puck. Rielly, Nylander, JVR, Marner, and Hyman are all able to get off great scoring chances but Luongo remains a brick wall throughout the onslaught.
Nifty Nazem Kadri extends his seven-game point streak to eight games with a lovely finish on a two-on-one breakaway with Connor Brown. Kadri receives the puck in the perfect position for a one-timer, but sees that Luongo is in position to stop it, so he pauses and waits for Luongo to fall down and simply wrists the puck into the top netting.
Eight games is a career-best for Nazem, congratulations to him!
With a third period goal, Nazem Kadri extends his point streak to a career-best eight games. #TMLTalk— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) November 23, 2017
With about three minutes left in regulation, Lu stops two great chances from Hyman, and then Matthews. Hyman’s shot is a falling swipe at a rebound that causes Zach to fall awkwardly on his arm, shoulder, or maybe head. He stays on the ground and is slow to get to the bench. Fingers crossed that Zach-attack is okay.
With 1:27 to go in the game, Jamie McGinn trips up Tyler Bozak while he is in the follow-through of a shot attempt. The Buds get a chance to win the game, and break the hearts of all of Florida’s fans, with the man-advantage.
For the second time in five days, Kadri gets hit with what can be described as a dirty hit. This time, a cross-check from Aaron Ekblad early in the powerplay. As the puck leaves the offensive zone, Kadri retaliates and kills the penalty for the Panthers himself by taking a cross-checking penalty of his own.
As the clock winds down, Captain Morgan walks the blue line and sends a seed towards the net. It hits the post! But goes wide and the clock strikes zero. So close.
UPDATE: the period ends and Zach Hyman is still not on the bench for the Maple Leafs. That is worrisome.
We get to watch Matthews - Nylander - Rielly destroy worlds on three-on-three! That trio is replaced with Komarov - Hainsey - Zaitsev right before McGinn comes out of the box. The three along with Freddy Andersen, who has been a brick-wall himself, kill off the penalty and we head to four-on-four (until the next whistle, when the overtime is able to go back to three-on-three).
Rielly, Matthews, and Gardiner all get partial breaks in the overtime. Rielly gets stopped by Luongo, Matthews gets tripped up by Matheson and skids all the way into the corner, and lastly, Gardiner is stopped by Luongo’s left leg. Gardiner is able to retrieve the rebound but he hits the side of the net with the shot.
Andersen makes a tricky save on Trochek as the buzzer goes, and we head to a shootout. This won’t be nearly as much fun.
Matthews is first. He dangles faster than my eyes can see but Luongo stays with him and stops the backhander.
Huberdeau moves the puck almost 10 feet from right to left but the toe of Andersen stones him. Nearly scores, but doesn’t! Still ties
Marner moves in and shoots but is robbed by the glove of Luongo
Sasha Barkov comes in and sneaks the puck past Freddy with a clever hybrid-Forsberg
Old-man Marleau makes a quick move and goes five-hole and scores, tying the shootout!
Vinny Trochek is stopped by Freddy.
Tyler Bozak tries the move Sidney Crosby made to win the shootout in the first Winter Classic (you know which one) but is also stopped.
Nick Bjugstad wins the game by making Freddy bite on the shot before sliding the puck into an empty net. Game over.
The Leafs head to North Carolina to play the Hurricanes on the road on Friday (7:30pm start), before heading back home to the Centre of the Hockey Universe to play the Washington Capitals on Hockey Night in Canada.