Before this recap begins, please go to change.org and sign my petition to make all games start at 7PM Eastern Time. Thankfully, the Maple Leafs have been out west for a few days now, so they’re used to this lateness by now. Me? Not so much. Let’s try to stay up late anyway.
First observation is that the Knight use so much pyro during player announcements that the ice is still smokey a minute into the play.
Despite playing through the fog of war, both teams get some good chances and time in the offensive zone, making the evenly split crowd roar in anticipation of goals that never come. There’s not a lot of neutral zone time and each team sees players come close. John Tavares for the Leafs, Rielly Smith for the Knights.
Halfway through the first the Leafs are quadrupling the Knights on shots 8-2, but the Knights are getting some rushes and attempts in the Leafs zone that get the crowd on their feet.
The Maple Leafs get a power play after Shea Theodore gets called for cross checking John Tavares. There’s a misplay in the Vegas end, which sets Rielly Smith off on a break away that Frederik Andersen is able to make a pad save on. Freddie holds onto that and forces a face off. The Leafs regroup, then get down to the Vegas end, where Patrick Marleau plays wall in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, and Andreas Johnsson scores from up high.
The Knights get aught up again, this time it’s Colin Miller called for tripping Auston Matthews, and the Leafs get their second power play of the period. The Leafs again almost give up a short handed goal to #71, and go scoreless on this power play.
The Leafs get a chance to redeem themselves though, as minutes later Merril gets called for something. The Knights have the fifth best power play in the NHL and it’s showing tonight. The puck isn’t stuck in the Knights zone very much as they dump it out with some frequency until the Leafs get themselves sorted. Fleury stands on his head again, just as he has been all period and keeps the Leafs from scoring.
The Maple Leafs will end the first period with a 1-0 lead.
The second period opens with some close action for the first 90 seconds until Brayden McNabb collides with Andreas Johnsson in a knee-on-knee hit that sees Johnsson go down on the ice and McNabb to the box. Johnsson is helped off the ice to the dressing room to be checked out as the Leafs take on the power play.
McNabb feels real bad about it.
McNabb smiling in the penalty box pic.twitter.com/WtkFeE5SWF— Flintor (@TheFlintor) February 15, 2019
The power play is giving in to the Knights penalty kill, and Rielly Smith steals the puck from Andersen when he’s behind the net, and he passes to Paul Statsny who scores into the empty net to tie the game at one.
After Connor Brown tries to set up a chance in the Knights zone with a cross-crease pass, the Knights nab the puck and take it up ice. Travis Dermott tries to break up the play, but ends up getting called for interference for his troubles. The Knights get their first power play, and just like their penalty kill they’re getting the puck and hanging around the Leafs zone. The power play is near it’s end when Nate Schmidt thinks he’s scored, but it hits the crossbar and goes out of play. The Knights go 0/1 on the power play.
However, at even strength the Knights take the lead after Oscar Lindberg gets a one timer pass from #21 to score his first goal against the Maple Leafs.
After the face off the Maple Leafs go into the Vegas zone, and William Nylander joins the team after a line change and just plows down the boards after the puck like a Labrador puppy. He’s been excellent tonight so far, playing with urgency and excitement.
The play stops for a face off and when it resumes the Leafs get the puck and Kasperi Kapanen sets up Auston Matthews who shoots from the slot, Marleau gets his stick on it, and the puck dribbles behind Fleury who kicks the puck into his own net.
Patrick Marleau has been anchoring himself in front of the Vegas net all night, and it finally pays off.
The Maple Leafs get their fifth power play of the evening after Oscar Lindberg gets called for high-sticking. The Maple Leafs have much better control over this power play than previous ones, and before we get a minute in, Auston Matthews scores from the blocker side face off dot to score his 100th NHL goal.
The play resumes it’s back and forth nature after this goal, with both teams getting some shots off - whether they hit the goalie or not is something else - but William Carrier of the Knights comes closest to scoring on a nice almost break away chance, and that leads to some scrambling in front of the Leafs net, but no one can get the puck past Freddie, and the second period ends 3-2 for Toronto.
The third period starts with a bang as Kasperi Kapanen gets a quick rush against Fleury but he doesn’t score. Max Pacioretty goes back towards Andersen, but he doesn’t score either. After that Paul Statsny gets called for slashing Connor Brown, giving the Maple Leafs their sixth power play opportunity of the game.
The Maple Leafs are in a lot more control of the puck than previous power plays, with the puck only leaving the offensive zone on a rebound off the boards behind the net. As PP comes to a close Cody Eakin gets the puck out of the Knights end and takes a close shot on Andersen, and tries to put in the rebound, but Andersen denies him both times. The power play ends and the Leafs have a 33% power play tonight.
When things are back to even strength William Karlsson will tie things up after skating around the net undefended, giving him the perfect set up spot next to Andersen, and he tips in a John Merrill shot.
Jake Muzzin gets called for holding, and Vegas gets their second power play of the game. The Knights have a good power play tonight, forcing Andersen to make some pretty nice saves. Andersen gets the puck and holds it, then points out a hole in the ice to the refs. He gets a breather while they fix it, and when play resumes the Leafs get the puck out of their zone =, killing off some seconds while the Knights regroup. The Leafs kill off the penalty.
A loud “Go Leafs Go” chant breaks out when the power play ends, as Leafs fans will travel anywhere to cheer on their team.
John Tavares gets the puck to Fleury’s glove side and out dangles the defender, once he’s done toying with his food he gets a pass up to the blue line and Morgan Rielly scores from way in the back to give the Maple Leafs a 4-3 lead.
Morgan Rielly— Flintor (@TheFlintor) February 15, 2019
Point shot through a screen. Rielly with his 15th to make it 4-3 Leafs. pic.twitter.com/iZN8SJ45ce
After the face off Connor Brown brings the puck back into the Vegas end and shoots, but Fleury catches that one and the Leafs get a face off in the Vegas end.
After this face off Auston Matthews gets the puck from Kapanen and wrists an easy one past Fleury for his 101st goal of his career.
The Maple Leafs have half a period to protect their 5-3 lead, They continue to take the game to the Knights, and Mitch Marner almost scores the sixth goal, but it goes wide. They get a bit too excited, and are assessed a penalty for Too Many Men, giving the Knights their third power play of the game, but it’s okay because the Knights dont’ score....but the Leafs do.
Mitch Marner— Flintor (@TheFlintor) February 15, 2019
Brown tosses it to Marner for his 21st. 6-3 Leafs on the SHG. pic.twitter.com/3kMhEeZYJ5
Mitchell Marner scores the sixth goal of the night, the Maple Leafs first shorthanded tonight, after a Connor Brown sends him a cross-crease pass.
Marner almost gets goal #7, but can’t connect with the net. The Knights have thrown in the towel by now, and let Kapanen take the puck down to their end of the rink with minimal defence. The Las Vegas crowd roars in appreciation for the Maple Leafs, because every city loves the Leafs.
The Maple Leafs win the game 6-3, Matthews scores goal #100, and the team packs up and heads to Arizona for their next game on Saturday. It’s at 7PM even though it’s in Arizona, because the Leafs will bully anyone into doing that they say.
Overall tonight the Leafs top two lines played very well, and the third line looked a little lost without Johnsson. Even strength was almost even, and the Maple Leafs had more power play chances tonight than it feels like they’ve had all season, but could only score on two of them. The Knights penalty kill factored heavily into this, as it was well composed and well executed.
Win #36 on this season is in the books. Thank you all for staying up, and if you’re reading this in the morning; good for you for putting your rest before hockey games.