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Maple Leafs win first ever game against Golden Knights 4-3 in dramatic shootout

It was a nail-biter, but the Toronto Maple Leafs won their first game against the NHL’s new expansion franchise.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Maple Leafs won their first ever game against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in a nail-biter of a game. Vegas is sitting on the best ever record in NHL history for an expansion franchise. This wasn’t an easy game.

Here is a recap as the game happened.


The big question for fans tonight is who is playing, and where? Matthews was reported to have left practice early and may not be able to play due to “general soreness” It turns out he was well enough to make it after all.

The Golden Knights have some guy they found on the street or something as a goaltender as their first four goalies are all out with injuries. There is a kid backing him up from the WHL who looks all of sixteen-years old.

Vegas is out to break a 100 year-old record tonight if they win. They would apparently be the first team to win 10 of their first fourteen games in their inaugural season since 1917. Colby Armstrong adds [endangered bird squawking noises].

Meanwhile, Nick Kypreos is bringing back wide lapels like a boss.

First period

[20:00] After much hype about a breakup, and a mystery “general soreness” injury reported at practice in the morning, Auston Matthews is indeed in the game. The Hyman-Matthews-Nylander line is back together.

Sportsnet handles the questions about the injury situation very delicately.

I’m not sure what’s going on, and I’m not going to speculate.

But here’s some speculation.

[18:05] The Martin-Bozak-Marner line generates the first real sustained attack for the Leafs. Andreas Borgman looks good backing them up from the blue line.

[16:44] The top line makes their presence known with Nylander carrying in the puck and getting it up to Hyman. It doesn’t work and Vegas takes possession, but Hyman gets it back, passes up to Nylander again, who draws the first penalty.

You know what happens on the power play? Nazem Kadri happens!

[15:08] Unfortunately, James Neal of the Golden Knights responds pretty quickly with a deflection on a great shot by Erik Haula. Neal will prove to be very dangerous throughout this game, generating a lot of scoring chances and finishing with seven shots on goal out of a total of eleven while he was on the ice in the game.

Our own Hardev is on the ball and quickly notes a change of role for Nylander.

Looks like Nylander is playing the centre position. He’s in front of the net defensively.

[14:28] The Martin-Bozak-Marner line continues to look good, and Borgman helps set them up again.

[12:25] The Leafs go on the power-play after our old friend Brendan Leipsic goes to the box. It doesn’t start well, but, suddenly, there’s Nylander with the puck on his stick, down on one knee, with a wide open net... he shoots wide to the left. That would have been a really nice goal to have. However, the PP improves, and the Leafs start to get organised and keep the possession, unfortunately, they can’t get off another shot.

No worries, though. Seconds after the PP ends, Matthews does an incredible amount of beautiful hockey to setup a goal that is banged in by James van Riemsdyk. Romanuk explains what JvR does at the end “He gets in position, as he does so well.”

So true, Paul.

[9:45] Oscar Lindberg keeps trying trying to plow his way through into the Leafs zone but fails every time. I guess only Swedes born in Canada can do that.

[7:20] Leo Komarov makes a lovely play to Kadri which was as good as what I assume angels taste like.

[5:30] OMG! Andersen losses track of a puck and it dribbles trough his pads. He reaches back, desperately trying to stop it, but he misses gloving it too.

Somehow, Matthews stops it. It looks like it banks off his skate and... I ... need a minute...

And then this happens.

[3:50] Luca Sbisa sure loves stretch passes. I will watch for more of them.

[2:52] So I have a note here from the game “Hyman doing nice Hyman things.” I don’t really remember what it was, but it was probably winning board battles against the Golden Knights in their zone as he seemed to be easily doing that all night.

[2:19] Vegas is having a really bad time keeping control of the puck and completing passes in the attacking zone. When they are not shooting, they are turning it over.

[0:00] We are promised by Romanuk that Kypreos and Armstrong will have lots of insight for us at intermission.

[30 seconds of dead air and arena noises]

Sportsnet does have a great intermission feature on Ian Turnbull, but to me what’s most interesting about it is how the video quality of these clips from the 70’s is better than most AHL broadcasts today.

Second Period

[18:00] OMG Freddie! Andersen starts the period getting bowled over behind the net. Fortunately he is OK.

The Leafs get a power play during which the most notable event is Neal getting a short-handed attempt. This feels like an ominous start to the period.

[15:40] Dominic Moore is perfectly setup and waiting for a puck with a wide open net, but no one can get it across to him. That would have been a great goal if he got it.

[14:55] Nylander gets chased close on a breakaway and decides to turn back, and setup Borgman for a shot instead. It’s blocked (Vegas is blocking a lot), but Borgman gets a second chance too. Legace stops that as well.

Romanuk says a player is “Serpentining.” I’ll just leave that out there.

[13:25] Vegas still not able to sustain attacks this period. They are really losing the board battles.

[12:10] Sbisa stretch pass! It’s like Neal is the only player they have who is able to carry the puck through the neutral zone like Nylander.

[10:54] Marner is drunk. He’s jumping up and dancing trying to get control the puck which is bouncing up and down. It’s a humourous event and you can actually see the other players slow down and look like “WTF is going on there?”

[8:16] Well now the Leafs seem to be developing their own problems getting the puck through the neutral zone. There’s a lot of turnovers happening here.

Do they see dead people? They're passing to no one. Marner, Bozak, Kadri, some others. - Katya

[7:20] The Leafs take a Too Much Man penalty. Hyman seems to not be used at his best on this penalty kill. He’s floating around in the space between all the Vegas players, maybe to block shots? But he’s never in a position to do that. I would think he should be the one down at the net.

[7:12] Well now Hyman knocks over the Vegas goalie and everyone holds their breath to see if they will lose their fifth goalie this season. Somewhere, an 18 year-old is excited he might get called up as an emergency backup goalie in the NHL. Brown is excellent helping to kill the 5-on-3. Andersen is called into action as well.

[2:38] Sbisa stretch pass!

The Leafs go on another penalty kill and...

That one was so obviously coming. An observation: for the first two Vegas goals Hainsey is right there at the net and not looking at the play both times, instead focused on a shoving match with another player.

Third Period

[18:36] Marleau gets a nasty elbow from Brayden McNabb and the Leafs go on an unremarkable power play during which Andersen appears to be drunk, flubbing a puck stop right in front of the net!

[17:13] Nylander continues to be the most successful at creating a rush through the neutral zone and generate some nice offence.

[16:39] BOZAK SCORES!!!!!


If you play the puck with a high-stick the measure is crossbar, and there should be a whistle. - Katya

Since the puck was played over the net, it didn’t matter that JvR didn’t ultimately shoot it in the net. The whistle should have gone off so the goal doesn’t count.

It’s too bad, as Vegas ties it up three minutes later and, ouch, you gotta stop that one, Freddie.

[11:55] Matthews line keeps up the pressure with two scoring chances, one from Rielly back on the blue line, but some brutal turnovers keep the Leafs out of the Golden Knight’s zone.

[9:41] A great play with a very patient Gardiner carrying the puck in to the attacking zone, slowing down, seeing JvR open and eager and he made a great cross-ice pass. Too bad it didn’t amount to anything.

[7:15] Now things are getting weird with he puck bouncing everywhere. They do say the ACC ice is not great, and this third period ice looks like proof.

[4:55] The Bozak line id really working hard to keep the puck in on attack with Rielly on defence. I’m liking this group.

[2:48] James Neal lines up a great shot on Andersen. He is really trying to win this game for his team. SO MUCH HEART CAUSE HE’S FROM TORONTO AND WANTS TO WIN IN HIS HOMETOWN THUMBSUP!



Brigstew captures the emotion of the first minute of OT.






Arvind notes he had to play it, but not like that.

Romanuk notes “We’re in overtime!”

Marner almost gets one going but.... nope.

Romanuk notes “We’re in overtime!” again.

JvR almost gets one going but.... nope.

Romanuk notes that “We’re in overtime!” again in case you didn’t hear the first five times he said it in the past 3 minutes or see the indicator on the score bug your screen.

And... no goals.


Oh boy. Here we go.

Marner: So dirty. What a dirty dirty goal.

Smith for Vegas: NOPE!

Matthews: Legace can now tell his grandchildren he once blocked a Matthews shootout goal.

Neal for Vegas: DENIED!

Marleau: (polite golf clapping)

David Perron: Why did they put him out for this?

Oh well who cares. SWING AND A MISS



I liked some individual contributions tonight. I thought Nylander was good. Borgman proved resistance futile, and JvR I love you, but, overall, this game was sloppy, and ugly. Yet, somehow they won. We’ll take a deeper dive into that tomorrow.

For now, let’s party!

The Leafs next game is against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday at 7:30 pm.