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Recap: Maple Leafs come back strong and beat the Senators in regulation

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It looked like it was all going to hell in Ottawa, but nope, the Maple Leafs staged a comeback to win it 4-3.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

These are the times that try our souls. With Nikita Zaitsev still out of the lineup, the players hit the ice without Morgan Rielly. The rotation concept for rookie defenders was definitely on ice as both Andreas Borgman and Travis Dermott were in the lineup.

The defence pairs were set up in warmup as:

Gardiner-Hainsey
Dermott-Carrick
Borgman-Polak

First Period

Leafs leave the puck lying loose off the faceoff and the Sens get the first shot. Frederik Andersen sighs heavily.

Last time the Leafs played the Sens, the Sens had abandoned the trap for chaos, and the Leafs could easily move through the neutral zone. We shall see if that holds, but some looooong stretch passes are connecting early.

Frederik Gauthier loses the puck in his feet just inside the offensive blueline. I really don’t want to speak of him again.

Nylander with a takeaway and then he’s the victim of one back, and this looks very slow, but mostly the play is in the Leafs zone.

Colin White gets a loud ping. Andersen sighs again.

Borgman gets a good pass up to Hyman, but Hyman is alone, so no-go on the goal scoring.

Oh, what a robbery! Dermott with some beautiful moves to get the puck through the neutral zone, but it’s Connor Brown out there vs Craig Anderson, and nope. No goal there either. Dermott really can handle the puck well. Going north.

Whoo! There it is. Hyman and Auston Matthews are both in front of the net, where they belong, where they haven’t been lately, and they take a point shot and make it into a goal. Sorry, Zach, that I accused you of no scoring ability earlier.

1-0 Leafs

We’re celebrating this goal with some time with the Tyler Bozak line hemmed right in. Brown is no help, and you know, it’s almost like a winger isn’t really any help with that generally.

The Matthews line have a lot of zone time, and then Leo Komarov makes a slick move to get the puck up to Patrick Marleau. Suddenly the game is fast, which is ideal as long as the Duchene/Hoffman line aren’t out there.

At this point, even with some excess defensive zone time for Bozak and company, the tide has turned, and the Leafs own the Corsi count after giving up some easy zone time to the Sens. The Senators have not shot the puck from anywhere but the outside edge of the circles so far.

Anderson tried to play the puck like Andersen, and Hoffman had to save him. That was close.

Matthews line play like they’re new in the offensive zone, and the Sens just pick up the puck. Luckily the Sens are really bad and can’t make a scoring chance even when it’s giftwrapped.

I haven’t seen Mitch Marner do a single thing.

Ha! Reverse jinx works. Marner digging on the boards nicely (and weirdly, he was doing that in the last game, he was just not doing much else) and he gets a nice pass to the net-front.

Marner gets the puck in the slot, but he needs too many bobbles to settle it down, but a scoring chance is still fun.

Ah-ha, the Sens tough guy, whose name I can’t spell and who has been hunting for victims, knocks down Marner after the puck is long gone, and off to the power play we go!

I’m sure this will be fine without Mo. They start with Carrick on point, and that’s an opportunity, Mr Carrick, you need to take it. He does not do much with it beyond one setup for Matthews. The Leafs have to defend a hell of a lot.

Gardiner to the rescue!

Anderson falls behind the net, but the Leafs can’t capitalize. More Leafs defending ensues. Wow. This is a baaaaad power play.

We shall never speak of that again. Whew, the period is over, and for some reason Dion Phaneuf and Komarov are hugging.

Ice time!

That’s all we care about these days right? Let’s look at defender ice time.

Gardiner: 7:40
Hainsey: 7:18
Polak: 5:46
Borgman: 5:34
Carrick: 4:49
Dermott: 4:49

Okay that is interesting, in that the nominal second pair played the least. Colour me unsurprised that Mike Babcock is not actually dumping a kid like Dermott into the top four off the drop.

All-situations ice time moves Carrick over Polak though. That’s why we don’t use it, because it’s misleading and emphasizes special team minutes.

Second Period

Ref cam makes me queasy, I wish they’d quit that.

Mark Stone takes a hit and falls badly, and shit, he’s hurt. Ah, it’s one of those horrible slide knee-first into the boards. Yuck. Hate that sort of thing. He can sort of walk down the tunnel, so maybe he’s okay.

Leafs are not doing much until Nylander springs Matthews with a good pass, and they get a shot off.

Hyman gets another chance off a rush of a sort, but everyone else is well behind the play, and it’s one and done.

Good heavens, did Auston Matthews just take his second penalty of the year? He did.

He takes a high-sticking call on Ceci, and it’s an Ottawa power play.

Stone’s back out, and obviously okay.

The Leafs penalty kill is working fine to start.

The Sens break up the Leafs four-man box by having Dzingel play behind the net, feeding the puck out. The disruption works and on the subsequent play, Erik Karlsson gets a nice shot off from a sharp angel. Smart, well-structured power play.

1-1 on the scoreboard.

Leafs are struggling to gain the zone as the pace picks up. The Sens will for real play this whole game trying to deny zone entries and do nothing else. so now the extra effort from the Leafs has to win the day.

Leafs are hemmed in again against a Duchene plus some no-name guys line.

The Kadri line spends their zone time checking not playing offence, and we’re back to the Sens with the puck.

Leafs are hemmed in again, and Borgman’s attempts to clear the zone are laughably bad.

Leafs win a defensive zone faceoff: good. They clear the zone: good. The pass is from Nylander to Gardiner: weird. It doesn’t connect: bad. The Leafs never really get control of the puck and the Sens come back, three abreast, unopposed, skating freely, passing without interruption, and...

2-1 Senators

Tell me again, why the Matthews line is ready for tougher competition. Yes, Nylander fell on the play, but long before that, they all failed to control the puck and do anything with it, and they think defending means backing up.

Oh, lovely, it’s the fourth line.

Karlsson just takes the puck away from Gardiner like it was easy. It was easy.

Leafs get it back and move up with some speed, Marleau passes, and for a mercy, that’s not Leo in the slot but Gardiner, but no shot ensues.

Kadri line is losing all their offensive zone passes to Senators’ sticks in lanes.

Oh, now it’s a Duchene rush chance, good plan. Let’s not give him a lot of those.

As these things do, it ended up a Nylander rush the other way (off a good defensive effort), but Anderson’s got it.

Kadri line is getting zone time, but it’s so frustrating that they aren’t getting shots.

Leafs are playing hard, I’ll give them that. Not sure how effective it is.

After some fruitless trading of the puck back and forth, the Kadri line gains the zone and...Roman Polak gets the shot. I mean. There are four other guys on the ice with better shots, including Koamrov, and that’s who shoots?

Matthews line gets some zone time, and it’s Dermott shooting from the point now. And sure, there is traffic, but this method of shooting through doesn’t go through. “The points are open” is not necessarily a good reason for a point shot when a turnover is the expected outcome.

The fourth line is out, and they’re tolerable tonight, I will grumpily admit.

Borgman slides cross-ice and lays a late hit on the Sens player. A mini-fight ensues. At first it looked like just a Sens penalty, but the refs figured out they had to give one to Borgman too.

So it’s a power play for Toronto? There was another penalty on the fight to the Sens. Okay, lucky break.

Or not.

Because Mark Stone steels the puck, as he’s good at doing, and the Leafs are defending on the power play. Badly. Three guys move in on the puck carrier. Zack Smith and Tom Pyatt have a chance on you...easy right? For them, yeah.

3-1 Senators.

It’s still a power play though.

Carrick gets a shot.

And then Bozak takes a high-sticking call, and who even cares? There’s 10 seconds left.

Third Period

I hate the Leafs right now. And the trouble is, I think they hate themselves. They aren’t this terrible, I mean, yes they puck watch defensively, and sometimes they are young and foolish, but they aren’t this bad.

But if there was a night for the forwards to really play some good defence, wasn’t it tonight?

Meanwhile the Ottawa power play looks like it isn’t one, but what difference does it make?

Okay, enough nihilism, this is the Sens, come on Leafs, get your offence going, drive the net and have the forwards shoot the puck.

That’s our man! Yes!

Gardiner has the puck, passes easy up to Hyman, and Matthews is driving the net where, I don’t know if you knew this, but good things happen.

3-2 Senators.

There is an immediate penalty to the Senators, and now the Leafs have a power play.

Leafs taking their time to set up. Nylander is so patient at this, so sure of himself.

He just goes all the way in on deking charge, and Anderson makes the save.

Maaaaaaarner! He takes a beauty of a pass off of Gardiner — seriously this power play is a mess, but a beautiful mess.

TIE GAME!

Leafs are flying and the Matthews line is peppering Anderson with chances.

The chaos that threatened to overwhelm the game is back under control, and the Leafs look strong on the puck.

This always happens you know. Like, I really do think Carrick shoots too much, that the Leafs rely on the point shot when the going gets tough. But this time there were guys at the net. What happens there? I think we know.

The Kadri line are forechecking hard and effectively, and a Carrick point shot goes in, and it’s 4-3, baby!

There’s ten minutes to go, and I’m nervous. The Leafs are just skating hard and running the game like they do this for a living, though.

Scary moment when Hainsey goes down blocking a shot, but he might have been just trying to fall on it. He nearly took a shot to the head for his trouble.

Bozak line is hemmed in — Bozak has been crappy in this game. And I’m more nervous.

Gardiner just DENIED a zone entry by the Sens, and he is really good tonight. He needed to be, really needed to step up, and he’s worked like a dog out here. An effective, on the ball dog too.

Six minutes. Super nervous.

Freddie tries some sort of adventurous play and, stop that, Freddie, I mean really, think of our hearts.

Five minutes. The Matthews line is out there, and that makes me less nervous. Nylander digs out the puck, but the Leafs never fully clear their own zone.

Marner and Brown are out with Bozak, no James van Riemsdyk, and no one seems to know why.

I hate to say this out loud, but the Sens look like they’ve given up here.

Leafs have the puck, and it’s goalie pulling time, but the Sens don’t have a chance to do it yet.

No JvR again on his next shift.

No Anderson out of his net yet either.

The Leafs ice the puck with just under two minutes left, and that means Anderson comes out. Boucher calls his timeout, so the Leafs get a rest It felt like half an hour.

Bozie wins the defensive zone draw, and they get a whistle and a change.

Brassard takes the puck and gets a chance.

Leafs can’t clear or get control. The Sens are all over the place.

Hoffman shot is deflected away, luckily.

Toronto timeout now. Huh, and Hainsey’s skate is untied. Imagine that.

Toronto clears it twice, with no icing.

Seconds from a regulation win, and there’s a whistle and a goalmouth scrum. Come ON!

HORN!

It’s a win!