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Recap: Maple Leafs lose 3-2 to Canadiens in OT

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Andrew Shaw shot one past Andersen in OT.

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s very intense, obviously; Toronto, Montreal, Saturday Night. Games are always played at a high [level of] emotion and intensity. - Nazem Kadri

That’s what Kadri had to say back in November about games between these two teams. The Leafs lost 2-1 to the Canadiens that Saturday night. The last time the Leafs defeated the Habs was in the Stone Age or something. That timeline still stands after tonight’s game. This time, the Leafs did at least make it all the way to overtime, and it looked like they had a chance to win, but three-on-three OT hockey is a fickle friend, especially when Carey Price is in the opposing net.

Pre-Game Show Notes

Adam Oates noted that JvR is now one member of his growing roster of supplemental coaching clients. Oates has been expanding his niche role in orbit of the NHL quite well. Just make sure he has plenty of pasta casserole to eat, Adam.

There was a random shot of Jacques Lemaire in the Maple Leafs management box and I realised I had totally forgot he had joined the Leafs staff in 2015 as a “Special Assignment Coach”. At the time, Lance Hornby reported Lemaire would not regularly be at games, but would be there “when Mike [Babcock] needs me.” I guess he needed him tonight for something.

First Period

The Leaf’s even-strength corsi-for in the first period was 34.48%. That sounds terrible, and, it was, but a look at the event graph shows a lot of the damage was confined to a small slice of the middle of the period.

From about the end of the Leafs first power play (gifted to them 1:32 in to the game by Artturi Lehkonen) until Jake Gardiner took a penalty at 8:27.

During that time the Leafs were either hemmed in their zone, or attempting to attack but turning over the puck. The HNIC commenters summed it up as action-packed but really it was just clear it out, attempt an attack, turnover, Habs rush, Leafs stuck on their zone. Repeat.

No Leafs line could get much done going during those 7 minutes, but I did note down JvR and Roman Polak specifically as flubbing on their defensive play, and allowing the Habs to keep possession or generate chances.

There was one notable scoring chance generated by Auston Matthews on a pass from William Nylander.

During the Gardiner penalty the Habs needed quite a bit of time to get anything going, but once they did there was a flurry of scary high-danger scoring chances on Andersen, but he turned them all away. He looked good, as he would through the whole game (well maybe not OT but we will get to that later).

Right as the power play ended, the Matthews glided through the neutral zone, sealed a change in momentum. He glides through the neutral zone, takes a shot just past the blueline, and after bouncing off Alexi Emelin JvR whipped out his stick in front of the net, and scored then bounced off Nikita Nesterov

Andersen looks hot and stays so almost right through the end of the period. There’s a lot of back-and-forth from turnovers. There was one scary shot that trickled under Andersen’s pads, but fortunately went off the post.

Nylander took a slashing penalty with 50 seconds left in the period, but the Leafs run out the clock without incident.

Second Period

The Leafs started the period successfully killing off the balance of the Nylander penalty, but again have trouble clearing the puck out.

Nikita Soshnikov took at penalty a little over 6 minutes in to the period. Max Pacioretty would take advantage for the Habs. He quietly slips through the PK unit here without notice and is left open for a shot on Andersen. It looks like Rielly sees trouble at the last second, but can’t block the shot.

After a brief time where JvR and Hunlak simply could not clear out the puck, we went to alternating breakaways.

Soshnikov had a breakaway, but was stopped by Price. Then Pacioretty had a breakaway but was stopped by Andersen. Then Soshnikov had a breakaway, and Price didn’t stop it... it hit the post. No goals, but good offence; the fourth line had a great shift.

The Habs successully killed off a penalty on Jeff Petry drawn by Leo Komarov, and then we went back to a lot of back-and forth and turnovers.

Auston Matthews generated a chance, stopped by Price. JvR flashed his patented between the legs move, but it goes a little wide. The puck was recovered quickly, but follow-up shot on Price also failed. It was the Habs who would get the next goal.

Andersen committed to a shot by Nikita Nesterov, but it surprisingly went wide. Unfortunately for Freddie, it wound up right on to Alex Galchenyuk’s skate, which stopped in, allowed him to kick it to his stick, and get off a shot. Andersen can’t properly get back in position to do anything about this one.

Third Period

Guess who scored his 30th goal of the season early in the third period!

The Leafs had tied the game, and turned up the pressure on the Habs. The fourth line once again had a great shift, keeping up pressure on an attack against the Habs.

With 15:24 left in the period, Nylander was called for a high-sticking penalty on Shaw. Did it actually happen? Babcock certainly didn’t think it did, judging by his red face and ranting at the officials. HNIC had a replay, but it was inconclusive.

Both Alex Radulov and Nathan Beaulieu had power play scoring chances, but Andersen stood his ground and stopped them. While the penalty was killed off, the Habs relentless attack did not end. Long after the Leafs were back at full strength, they were still fumbling to get the puck out. Polak failed at this more than once.

The Habs continued to press the attack. Paul Byron tried to deflect in a shot from Weber with Andersen in no position to stop it, but his angel was wrong, and it went wide. Gallagher got a look on Andersen too, who again, stopped all shots.

With 9:00 minutes left, the puck pops out from a board battle by the Habs net. It’s moving fast down the ice towards the Leafs net, and we have a race to get it! Starting a little past the face-off dot in the Habs zone with a 3 foot advantage is Matt Hunwick. Behind him is both Roman Polak and Andrew Shaw, starting about even. Polak realises half way through he’s not winning this one, and gives up. Hunwick does touch the puck first, but only to push it ahead, so it is moving a little faster, but then he gives up. This allows Shaw to pass him and he almost gets control of the puck. Thankfully, Andersen was watching this go down, and knew he had to go on an adventure way out of the net, and poke the puck away from Shaw.

I really want someone to capture that sequence, put it in slow-motion, and add the theme song from Chariots of Fire.

There were a few more scoring chances by the Habs, including one notable by Radulov, but Andersen continued to be a wall through the rest of the period.

Since I always noted it during Marlies games, I will again for the Leafs: near the end of the period Nylander attempted his cutesy blind backwards pass as he encounters pressure passing the blue line. Zach Hyman was there, but he flubbed it, looking like he really did not expect it.

Tune is next week to see Nylander’s 1000th attempt at this play which has never worked.

Oh, wait. The games not over. Regulation ends with the Leafs and Habs tied 2-2!

Overtime

Three-on-three is not really worth analyzing, but, for the record, both Gardiner and Matthews had scoring chances for the Leafs before the game ended with a Habs goal.

It was another race to the puck involving Andrew Shaw. This time it was between him and Andersen to intercept a puck that was heading towards the net. Andersen came way out of the net to try and get it. Shaw was skating hard toward the net to get off his shot. Shaw won the race.

Final Thoughts

You know who looked good to my eyes tonight? Nikita Soshnikov. In fact, that fourth line all together had several memorable good moments. On the other hand, my eyes told me JvR was not great, and Polak looked bad at EVERYTHING.

The next Leafs game is Tuesday February 28th. I hope you don’t have to get up early on Wednesday, it’s the first game of the California road trip, in San Jose, and the game will not start until 10:30PM EST.