Frederik Andersen, take a bow.
The Great Dane faced 10 shots from Steven Stamkos, another eight from Victor Hedman, four more from Nikita Kucherov, and a further 16 more from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a grand total of 38 in a 4-2 Toronto Maple Leafs victory at AMALIE Arena.
Andersen was amazing in this game. He stopped six, seven, maybe eight massive chances by the end of the game, most coming off the big guns Stamkos and Kucherov. Stamkos, man, if only he was a Leaf.
Stamkos splits the D and draws a penalty. Huge save by Freddy. pic.twitter.com/9OqOlgSnUO— Flintor (@TheFlintor) January 18, 2019
But it wasn’t just Freddy who came out to play for the Leafs. He needed run support early in the game and he got it thanks to the rejuvenated third line of Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, and Kasperi Kapanen who combined to score two goals on eight shots. Kapanen was flying all over the ice and it looked like his energy was spreading to both his teammates. Marleau got his first goal in nine games, and was flying all over the ice. Plus, with Kapanen doing a lot of the dirty work around the boards, Marleau was freed up to play in the spaces in the middle of all three zones, something he’s probably more suited for in his older age.
Kadri also snapped out of his massive scoring drought with a big goal to start the game for the Leafs, but more than that, he was his pesky, nifty, and possession-driving self. Elliotte Friedman was saying in one of the intermissions that it looked like Kadri was struggling to find a role on the Leafs on the third line. With Kapanen, I think he’s found it. He just looks so dynamic.
The first five minutes of the game had a lot of pizazz but nothing in the direction of scoring a goal took place. That changed when Nikita Zaitsev drew a penalty on the often-penalized-but-still-an-MVP-favourite Kucherov. A slashing call behind the net. On the power play, the Leafs struggled to get anything on net until the last 30 seconds. After giving up a chance to Stamkos at one end of the ice, the Leafs quickly transitioned and gave Kapanen a great chance. John Tavares had the rebound, too, but Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped both. Shocking news to hear, I’m sure.
Steven who-didn’t-want-to-be-a-Leaf Stamkos burst through the middle of the ice after getting a perfect no-look pass from used-to-be-a-Leaf Anton Stralman at the offensive blueline. Stamkos got around Travis Dermott and Igor Ozhiganov with impressive speed and reach, drawing a hooking penalty against Oz.
On the power play, Hedman let loose a shot from the point that got blocked in front, but dropped right onto the stick of Brayden Point. Despite 37-year-old Ron Hainsey sprawling all over Point, the 22-year-old still found a way to get enough power on the shot to get it past Andersen. I kinda wish Freddy would’ve had that. He looked squirmy in his net all throughout the first period.
Finally! Kadri got off his incredible 10-game goalless slump to tie the game at ones and it was fully because Kapanen re-energized the third line. Just watch Kapanen go on the zone-entry leading to the scoring chance that led to the goal.
As the play went on, the Leafs held control of the puck along the boards and a Marleau pass to Kapanen at the faceoff dot opened up the passing lane down low for Kadri to sweep across and beat Vaselastic at the far post.
The first period was extremely even between these two top-tier blue and white teams. At even-strength, the Leafs led the shot-attempt margin 14-13 and tied the Lightning in shots 6-6, but in terms of scoring chances? The Leafs were ahead 10-3 in that period! Yeah! They were getting to the front of the net really well in that period (especially Kadri), contrary to Tampa’s “shoot from distance” style.
Stamkos drew another power play on the third pair, this time it was Dermott for a careless crosscheck away from the play. Thankfully, on the ensuing power play, the Lightning couldn’t beat a much more composed Freddy Andersen.
I don’t really have much to say about the following clip, other than it made me laugh out loud.
Slump-busters! Marleau got off his nine-game goalless AND pointless streak with his 11th goal of the season. With Kadri causing absolute havoc in front of the net, Zaitsev made an incredible offensive play and drove to the net in order to center the pass. The puck got by a battling Kadri, but Marleau followed up and potted it in, giving the Leafs their first lead of the game.
37 seconds after Marleau gave the Leafs the lead, Hedman brought the Lightning back to evens. The play started with a smooth zone entry by Point and Kucherov that allowed the Russian to cut across the net in order to open a shooting lane for the big Swede. Hedman let loose a one-timer that got past Andersen on the blocker side. Freddy probably wishes he had that back.
66 seconds after THAT, the Tavares line combined for a goal of their own. Vasilevskiy was trying to play the puck behind the net, but didn’t get much on it. Andreas Johnsson beat his man to the corner and gave Tavares a nifty backhand pass. In a quick motion, Tavares sent what looked like a shot right onto the stick of Mitchell Marner at the far post. Gosh, we are so lucky to have JT and his backpack.
The Lightning had two power plays to the Leafs’ none in that period, and they used that momentum to give themselves a 11-15 shot attempt lead at even-strength. The shots (7-7) and scoring chances (6-6) were both tied in the second period to further indicate that these two teams are pretty darn close.
The third period was a shooting gallery for the Lightning, especially when Zach Hyman was given (an extremely soft) slashing penalty. Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman, and Point just couldn’t stop shooting from the edges of the slot, but no matter what came his way, Freddy was there. There was a moment during the penalty kill when Hainsey had a chance to clear the puck, but he failed to even do that, and it allowed the Bolts to have two or three massive cross-crease/royal road chances. The shot attempts in the third period were 3-11 in favour of the Lightning at a point before the Leafs were able to bring some momentum back with an offensive shift of their own.
Auston Matthews was pretty quiet in the first two periods in my mind, but in the third he came alive. His first shift in the offensive zone in the third saw him battle mercilessly around the net, and then get checked into the boards, losing his helmet in the process. Nevertheless, he and his linemates were able to get a few great chances on Vasilevskiy. Later in the period, he would throw a muffin at Vasilevskiy that the 24-year-old goaltender bobbled with the glove and almost put in himself.
With a little over two minutes left in the third, the Lightning drew an icing call and pulled their goalie. The Leafs were tired and hemmed in their own zone, but somehow found their way out of the first wave unscathed. Lightning coach Jon Cooper then called a timeout with 1:49 left on the clock in order to set up the final push.
With less than a minute left, Zach Hyman picked up a chip pass and cradled the puck into the open net, sealing the deal. The play was put under review, just in case the puck left the playing surface or if a player on the Leafs touched it, but the referees let the goal stand. Wooooo!!!!!!!!!
After The Whistle
- I would give anything to have Ryan McDonagh on the Leafs. Honestly. He’s been such a solid and dynamic presence on the Lightning’s defense. His work this season solidifying a second pair that has been forced to carry one or both of Dan Girardi and Braydon Coburn. He’s not only been the Lightning’s top penalty killer and defensive specialist, but a huge mentor to the kids; he’s been the greybeard with rookie Erik Cernak this season to show the 20-year-old the ropes. Imagine if the Leafs had him playing with a Timothy Liljegren or Travis Dermott. I would die.
- Thank you, Freddy. Thank you thank you thank you so much. We don’t deserve you. But anyway, thinking about this win and Tampa’s back in Toronto, it’s pretty cool symmetry that Vasilevskiy came off an injury to beat the Leafs with a dominant goaltending performance on the road only for Freddy Andersen to come back and do the exact same thing in Vasy’s barn.
- And finally, this: