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Game Recap: Lightning 4 - Leafs 1

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Sigh.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

You don’t need me to set this up for you. It’s simple. Win and we’re in. Lose, and we have a more nerve-wracking weekend ahead of us. This team has exceeded the expectations of most throughout the year. Now it’s time to finish. Let’s go.

First Period

  • [20:00] No lineup changes for the Leafs. Tampa is with their customary ensemble set of their normal lineup and the Syracuse Crunch.
  • [19:39] Strong opening shift for the Leafs, with Connor Brown and Nazem Kadri getting early chances.
  • [18:36] Odd pairings early for the Leafs’ defence. Looks like it will normalize though.
  • [18:00] The Kadri line, with Gardiner/Zaitsev backing have feasted early on. Generated some strong chances.
  • [16:47] The crowd is INTO it. If the Leafs get the first goal, the place will erupt.
  • [15:45] It’s a pretty manic pace early. Lots of back and forth, and the Lightning are growing into it.
  • [15:20] An Auston Matthews pass bounces in front of the Leafs net, and it results in Jonathan Drouin nearly poking it home. Morgan Rielly did an awesome job tying him up.
  • [14:15] Brilliant puck movement by Tyler Bozak’s group, along with Jake Gardiner and Connor Carrick. Results in a slot chance from Marner, but his shot is blocked.
  • [12:29] Looking at the game so far, the fourth line has seemed to struggle, along with Matthews’ group. And right on cue, Zach Hyman gets called for tripping. Leafs to the PK. Tampa has wrestled control of the game away from the Leafs, after a relatively even start.
  • [10:25] The Leafs do a masterful job killing off that penalty. Tampa gets basically nothing going, and we’re still all square, halfway through the first.
  • [9:15] I’m really confused by this Air France commercial. There’s like, people making out, trapezes, and coordinated dance routines. Not like any flight I’ve been on.
  • [9:39] A home run pass for Marner just misses.
  • [9:11] This game illustrates one way in which the Leafs have been very fortunate - injuries. The worst injury we’ve faced is Rielly being hobbled for a few weeks.
  • [8:08] Dominant shift from Matthews’ group, including an extended sequence where Roman Polak is a bull in a china shop down low.
  • [7:39] Andrej Sustr hooks Marner, and the Leafs get a chance on the PP.
  • [7:19] Maybe it’s just a result of watching too many Leafs games, but our PP entry strategy honestly boils down to “Give it to Mitch”, or “Give it to Willie”.
  • [6:32] The Leafs haven’t gotten anything going so far. Tampa is creating turnovers soon after the Leafs break the blueline. The teams trade ineffective PPs, but just as the Sustr penalty is about to expire, Anton Stralman trips Gardiner. The Leafs get another chance.
  • [5:31] First penalty expires. Leafs still have another PP to work through.
  • [4:47] Much more successful PP here. Lots of puck movement, but Andrei Vasilevskiy is on his game,moving very well to snuff out chances from Kadri and Bozak.
  • [4:13] Oh no. Jake Dotchin (he of the ‘getting speared in the balls by Marchand’ fame) collides with Matthews as he enters the zone on the power play. Matthews is shaken up and goes back to the bench. No call made. Not saying I agree with Marchand did, but I can sympathize with him in some respects.
  • [4:08] Not a huge fan of TSN showing Matthews’ family as he’s in obvious discomfort.
  • [3:01] That Dotchin play was textbook interference, by the way. Kasperi Kapanen answers by knocking down Ondrej Palat.
  • [2:18] Worth noting that Dotchin injured Kapanen earlier in the year, in the AHL.
  • [2:18] Anyways, Matthews shows the Lightning why they shouldn’t make him angry, as he drives the net and gets a strong backhand off. Vasilevskiy up to the task.
  • [1:23] Nylander finds Matthews with a beautiful pass off an offensive zone faceoff, but he rolls it just wide. The play ends up going the other way, and Andersen steers a couple sharp angle shots away. At the end of this play, Matthews gratuitously hits Sustr in the corner. He’s mad.
  • [0:12] Hedman gets a scary point shot off with a load of traffic in front, but again, Andersen adeptly deals with it. Both goaltenders seem on their game.
  • [0:00] First period ends. No score. On to the 2nd we go.

Second Period

  • [20:00] Alright, time to begin again.
  • [18:50] Nondescript start to this period.
  • [18:02] Matthews gets cross-checked into the net, and draws a call. Another PP for the Leafs.
  • [17:23] Lots of zone time early in this power play, but Toronto can’t quite get the last pass to come off.
  • [16:25] Oof, Vlad Namestnikov lays it all on the line, hitting the deck to stop a Nylander shot. It deflects off a stick and goes straight into his face. I hope he’s alright. That’s a lot of blood.
  • [15:31] That play by Namestnikov saves a goal, and the Leafs are unable to capitalize with the man advantage.
  • [15:05] Coburn and Martin start fighting. Likely a result of the cross-check against Matthews. The crowd is into it. No instigator for Martin.
  • [14:07] Tampa is like a wounded rat. They just won’t go away. Except the wounded rat also has Kucherov, Hedman, and Drouin. This metaphor broke down a bit, but you get the point.
  • [13:45] Matthews looking Mats-esque, bowling someone over in the corner, and walking away with the puck to create a scoring chance. It results in a mad scramble in front of the net, where Polak takes a penalty. Tampa gets a chance to pull ahead again.
  • [12:26] Lightning score! Off a won draw, Palat passes to Point in the slot. His shot fools Andersen. Lightning lead 1-0.
  • [12:20] And now it gets tense. Very tense.
  • [11:09] Andersen attempts to clear the puck to a Leaf, but it goes right to Drouin, who’s shot is saved.
  • [11:03] Immediately ensuing this, a failed clearing attempt bounces right to the slot, and Point very nearly makes it 2-0.
  • [10:18] Leafs score! Nazem Kadri with his 32nd of the year, off a wonderful feed from Matt Hunwick . After a chaotic couple of minutes in the Leafs zone, Bozak exits the zone and makes a wonderful cross-ice pass to Hunwick. He tosses it on net, and Kadri deftly tips it in. Tie game, 1-1.
  • [10:07] Almost immediately after, Marner gets a chance. Vasilevskiy recovers. He then sets up Kasperi Kapanen, who is robbed of his first NHL goal by the Russian netminder.
  • [9:42] Something to note: Nylander has been taking right-sided offensive zone faceoffs in lieu of Matthews. Likely a handedness thing.
  • [8:21] Drouin gets high-sticked by his own stick, after Hunwick tries to make a play on the puck. Shouldn’t be a penalty. The officials are conferring on this. We’ll see if they’re able to make the right call.
  • [8:21] Looks like they figured it out. That’s a relief.
  • [8:10] Oh my god, Nikita Kucherov. He has no business scoring, but he did. Just watch the video. 2-1 Lightning.
  • [8:10] That’s a bummer. By the way, that play started from Roman Polak not being able to handle a D-to-D pass, and shoving it up ice while trying to recover.
  • [6:34] Nylander goes super-saiyan, forcing a turnover, racing down the ice to beat the D, stopping up and finding the trailer for a great chance. Unfortunately, the trailer’s (Bozak) shot was blocked.
  • [5:25] By the way, both Matthews and Nylander have been strong offensively tonight. Just haven’t been able to beat Vasilevskiy.
  • [3:52] Andersen just made a ridiculous save. A loose puck is poked past the Leafs D on a neutral zone faceoff, and Drouin walks in all alone on the Leafs net. Andersen robs him with the glove. Unreal save.
  • [3:11] This is getting real nervous for the Leafs now. It’s not like they’ve played badly. It’s been an even game. Nonetheless, they’re trailing, and that needs to change in the next 23 minutes of game time.
  • [1:54] Nylander is just unable to handle a stretch pass that would have led to a breakaway. He then centres for Hyman, who sees his tip go out of play.
  • [0:34] Sorry if the updates are getting less frequent. It’s hard to recap while simultaneously hyperventilating into a brown paper bag.
  • [0:00] Period is over, Leafs stuck 1. Biggest period of the season upcoming.

Third Period

  • [20:00] Gut check time.
  • [18:43] Nylander looks REALLY good tonight. I’m calling that he’s gonna be involved if the Leafs get back into it.
  • [18:00] Oh no. 3-1 Lightning. A shot gone wide sees Freddie scramble, as the Leafs are shambolic in their own zone. The puck gets thrown in front, and Michael Bournival tucks it in for a 3-1 lead. Not good at all.
  • [15:03] The ACC crowd is really tense. You can feel it watching the game.
  • [14:32] The Leafs aren’t playing bad, but they’re also not outplaying a team with Greg McKegg in it’s top six. And there haven’t been many dangerous chances for Toronto in the third either. It’s not trending well.
  • [13:38] Andersen makes another save to keep the Leafs in it, as Kucherov is sprung for a breakaway.
  • [12:35] The seconds are just melting off the clock now. Feels like hte period just started, but we’re nearly halfway through already.
  • [11:11] Kadri’s group gets some pressure and the first real chances of the period, but Vasilevskiy just keeps stopping them.
  • [10:32] More pressure, same amount of goals.
  • [8:52] Tampa counterstrikes, but Freddie has kept Toronto in the game.
  • [8:21] Tampa is so frustrating. They’re not retreating into a shell, but they’re also not over-extending. They’re not taking any more dumb penalties. It’s really annoying.
  • [6:55] This is prison rules now. Kucherov and Hunwick were battling with one another. Hunwick retaliates, then hits him in open ice. Kucherov gets annoyed, and runs Jake Gardiner. Perfect example of how not calling penalties leads to escalation. We end up with 4-on-4.
  • [6:10] The clock looks like it’s going to be too much of an obstacle here. 2 goals in just over 6 minutes is rough.
  • [5:49] Make that 3 goals. Game over. Point walks in and snipes bar-down. 4-1 Lightning.
  • [5:34] Well, this was an upsetting game. The Leafs had a chance to step on the throat of a weakened team, and they didn’t do it. Credit to Tampa... they’re missing half their team and are still fighting, and winning.
  • [5:34] Not, NOW, Air France!
  • [4:39] The rest of this game is largely academic. So with that in mind, let’s discuss what this game means for the Leafs. It obviously hurts. On paper, this was the most winnable game remaining on the Leafs schedule. That said, the Leafs are still in a strong position to make the playoffs. Tampa still essentially needs to run the table, and the Leafs would have to fail to get points against both Pittsburgh and Columbus. Tampa is in tough tomorrow, as they play the Habs on the second half of a back to back. The Habs aren’t fighting for anything, but then again, neither are the Pens or Blue Jackets. We’re still in a decent position to make the playoffs. New York also has to win their last two games to pull ahead of us (assuming we win neither). With a win and an OT/SO loss, they’d be tied with the same amount of ROW, so we go to whatever tie-breaking procedure the league has imposed.
  • [2:57] Unfortunately, this loss means the Leafs will almost certainly be in the second wild card spot if they do make the postseason, which means a 4 or 5 game drubbing at the hands of Ovi and the Caps. Which, to be sure, is probably more enjoyable than a loss to the Bruins or Sens. But the latter two are definitely more winnable series’. The Caps are a juggernaut, and short of Andersen going 2010 Halak on them, we have a minimal chance of winning.
  • [1:49] The Matthews line created another awesome chance that somehow didn’t go in. Not their night.
  • [1:34] Not the Leafs’ night.
  • [0:00] Well, that’s the game. The takeaways are mentioned above. Sucks, but we’re not out of it yet, and Tampa still has to win two to beat us outright (I’m ignorant of the NHL’s byzantine tie-breaking rules). As far as I can tell, they definitely can’t afford any regulation losses. So, looks like we have to root for the Habs tomorrow. Unfortunate, but it’s for the greater good. And hopefully, they pull it off, and that Game 3 is worth it.
  • See y’all on Saturday.