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Maple Leafs shake off the Tampa game malaise and find themselves again in a loss to Chicago

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They lost the game in the first period, but the important part was what they found in the third.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

I do not have the flu. However, Zach Hyman does. Kasperi Kapanen thought he did, but it turned out to be a concussion, which is a mistake anyone can make, so the Leafs have emptied the press box of everyone but Justin Holl, and they’re all playing tonight.

I am actually really interested to see Nic Petan again, he was good while the rest of the short line was not vs Vancouver. I thought then, that he warranted another look. But it’s Moore getting the test/reward on the top line with Tavares.

Moore was not stellar in preseason, to say the least. He then laid down a better AHL season than last year. This is his chance to make positive impression of his growth.

First Period

Chicago with a scoring chance right away, but Frederik Andersen has the puck.

The Leafs are spending all their time hovering around Andersen’s net, until finally, Mitch Marner gets the puck and takes it up ice. Nothing much happens, though.

Oh wow. That was hard to watch.

The puck deflects a little off a Duncan Keith shot, goes through the five hole, and it slides so, so, so slowly over the line.

1-0 Chicago.

Oh, hey, the Leafs get a shot on goal. Cool.

The fourth line does well, but then the Chicago top line comes out, and Nic Petan arranges a speedy exit.

Oh, hey, the Leafs get a second decent shot. Both from Nazem Kadri, who seems to be winning his line matchup handily.

Trevor Moore gets the puck on a good backcheck, but can’t hold onto along the boards. Can he bring his Scrappy-Doo style to the NHL? Maybe not so high up in the lineup.

Leafs are starting to move better, play with a smoothness, and they’re getting more zone time.

Really nice series of plays through the neutral zone and a mini-cycle offensively from the Matthews line and Morgan Rielly. That’s more like it.

Oh boy.

Long shot from the point goes in, after Frederik Gauthier and Martin Marincin together can’t deny a zone entry, and then Nic Petan does nothing useful to get the puck off of Brendan Perlini’s stick. Andersen looked bad, they looked worse.

2-0 Chicago

So, if I’m following the broadcast chatter correctly, Chicago are actually a good team now after being terrible for months, and are in fact one of the best teams in the west since January (end points, choose your end points). Lovely.

This all press box Leafs team is not one of the best teams in the east.

Speaking of, now John Tavares is bad too:

3-0 Chicago.

Lots of chatter about how Ron Hainsey played that two-on-one, but you know, that’s one of the NHL’s top scorers there with the puck, and spread the blame how you will.

Crowd is starting to boo a little. I say, why only a little?

This happens just over a minute later.

4-0 Chicago.

Can I say now that Frederik Gauthier is largely over his head playing in the NHL? Is that okay? Because he is, and I’m saying it.

This period mercifully ends.

Thoughts

What a shitshow.

This was my interim headline and photo:

Second Period

Oh, goody. Garret Sparks is in again. History in the making with Andersen being pulled two games in a row — and quite right that he was, too.

Moore is with Kadri and Conner Brown, and I like it, they’re getting zone time, and you know who’s been good? Nikita Zaitsev, and that never bodes well, when I notice him as good.

The Matthews line, who got good later on in the first start the second with some serious play.

The Kadri and Tavares lines duplicate that good zone time.

But Corey Crawford looks very strong in net.

JT gets a post.

Last time I said something nice about Sparks, all hell broke loose on Long Island, but he’s been good so far.

Brown and Moore fail at the give-and-go and almost give up a rush the other way, but luckily the Chicago defence is really bad.

Blah, blah, the Leafs are playing so much better, blah, blah.

5-0 Chicago.

No blame to Sparks here. That was all Leafy defending.

So this Perlini guy. He’s one of those guys John Chayka likes to trade away in a two dimes for 21 cents trade. He likes to make those trades with Chicago too. Only this time, it was Perlini and Dylan Strome for Nick Schmaltz.

Perlini had six points in 22 games this year for the Coyotes. He has 10 points, nine of them goals in the 34 games leading into tonight. He finally got two more assist tonight. So that smells like a shooting hot streak that won’t continue, but Dylan Strome is the story. He had six points in 20 games for Arizona, and now has 14 goals and 27 assists in 45 games in Chicago.

Now, funnily enough, Schmaltz saw some modest improvement back the other way, but you can’t help but ask what went wrong in Arizona with Strome, and why is Chicago the place for him?

Thank you for following along while I avoid watching this game. I managed to make that last to the last two minutes, and I tuned in just in time for Andreas Johnsson to score:

5-1 Chicago.

Hearing the goal song was jarring. The Leafs like oldies, maybe they should try this:

Thoughts

This is what I’ve got right now.

Third Period

Collin Delia is now in for Crawford, who is ill? Does the entire NHL have the flu? And if that was Crawford not all that well, how bad were the Leafs?

JT tries a wraparound, and that nearly worked.

Refs let a slash to Brown’s hand go, so it’s do whatever you like night, now that the game is decided. Logical.

Matthews accidentally scores off of Strome after Delia runs out of heroic moves.

5-2 Chicago.

There’s a few Go Leafs Go chants now, and fair enough, the Leafs are playing hard.

I do not believe it. There is a penalty to Chicago. The Leafs get an actual power play, and for slashing, too.

Captain Morgan to the rescue!

5-3 Chicago.

Kadri with a post, and Moore looks good on his wing. Really, really good.

Matthews takes a Zetterberg/Nyqvist-style circuit with the puck, but the Leafs can’t get through the scrambling Chicago defenders. They are scrambling, though. They’re on the back foot now.

The Leafs are just flying here. All of them. Tavares has a great shift, then Marincin has a chance, Hainsey.

All of the Leafs are pressing with all they have, and they look like a team an order of magnitude better than Chicago.

The net is empty, the crowd is awake, but the Fates and Delia say no to more goals.

But no! JT brings the score a little closer.

5-4 Chicago.

One and a half minutes to go.

Damn, Matthews with an open net, but the puck was bouncing.

Kadri with a shot.

Marner with a shot.

Delia down, but no one can shoot.

Delia has no stick.

Marner with a shot, but the net was dislodged and the whistle went.

My god, this team, this team. This is the Leafs.

Captain Morgan wants Delia to get a penalty for knocking the net off, but Delia mostly just helped it be obvious it was loose.

Nineteen point eight seconds. Is that enough time?

Naz with the faceoff.

Toews tossed from the dot.

Muzzin keeps the puck in.

Kadri shoots, but no!

And it’s over. There was not enough time. But the Leafs found themselves again, and that’s what matters most.

What a finish. (What a start, though.)