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Toronto Maple Leafs play best game in weeks; get shutout anyway

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So it goes.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Nashville Predators Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Maple Leafs left behind the horrors of last week, skipping town to head south a brief road trip to Nashville, then Buffalo. Martin Marincin was a last minute scratch because of that flu going around the Leafs locker room - wash you hands you idiots - and they dealt with losing another defender much better than we would have thought.

The Maple Leafs tried evening the score early, but knocking out Viktor Arvidsson with a shot off the unpadded part of the leg, and had some good back and forth with the Predators for a couple minutes before Patrick Marleau is called for hooking Wayne Simmonds.

The Maple Leafs penalty kill does a good job of forcing the PRedators to pass around the perimeter, not letting anyone set up in from of the net or in the slot. PK Subban gets a good point shot off, but the penalty expires with the game still tied at one.

After things are back to even strength, the play stays in the Leafs zone, and after a Jake Muzzin pass is intercepted Ryan Johansson, he passes it to former Leaf Brian Boyle who scores to put the Predators up 1-0.

The Predators aren’t giving Mitchell Marner any room to play his game; he’s being shadowed by two Predators whenever he has the puck in the offensive zone, keeping the chances down.

The Predators put the pressure on Andersen, but after Freddie makes a stop on Craig Smith, William Nylander gets puck and carriers it down to the Predators net. Matthias Ekholm gets called for holding Nylander, and the Maple Leafs will get their first power play ofthe game.

Which begins with a Filip Forsberg breakaway that’s stopped by Andersen, but like, jeez guys. The Predators PK does a great job as well tonight; a bit better than the Leafs since they get to dump the puck out the whole penalty kill, and it ends with the Maple Leafs still off the scoreboard.

A minute later, Craig Smith gets called for tripping. Auston Matthews gets the puck across the ice to Kasperi Kapanen as he’s falling, but Kapanen whiffs on the shot and the whistle is blown to call the penalty.

The Maple Leafs second power play in the past five minutes begins as the last one does, #10 gets the puck off the face off and is allowed to skate straight down to Freddie and take a shot. It’s stopped, thankfully. The play goes back down to the Predators end and Auston Matthews works his way through three Predators before being stopped by Pekka Rinne.

The Maple Leafs are allowed plenty of time to set up their shots, but nothing gets by Rinne and the penalty expires as the Predators dump the puck down to the Leafs zone. After two power plays, it’s still 1-0 Nashville.

The Maple Leafs are getting chances, but it’s as if they’re always shooting directly at Rinne’s glove or pads; his saves just look too easy. Andres Johnsson has a great chance while lines are being changed but it’s snatched out of the air with ease by Rinne.

Auston Matthews gets the shadow treatment as he comes into the Predators zone, he tries a cross crease pass, but the shot is deflected by Ryan Ellis.

The first period ends with the Predators in the lead 1-0.

Period notes:

  • The Predators have a good defense. Did you know this? They have a lot of good defenders. TSN made sure to tell us that a lot.
  • But seriously, how do they churn out all these top defenders?
  • There was a lot of crowded scrambling for the puck from both sides.
  • Both teams have relied on their goalies to keep the score low, as teams allowed some good players to have room a couple of times.

The second period gives us some time to think over the last period, as there’s no standout moment for the first few minutes, until an old fashioned race to beat the icing breaks out between Morgan Rielly and Rocco Grimaldi. Both teams have a lot of back and forth but the period is generally boring.

At the eight minute mark, there’s a lot of flailing around the puck in front of the Predators net, but none of the Maple Leafs can get control of it, and the Preds are trying to get it away from the prone Rinne. The refs blow the play dead just as the Predators got the puck out of the scramble, but no dice. We get a face off right next to the net as Roman Josi is called for holding Zach Hyman.

The Maple Leafs third power play of the game fares as well as the others. They’ll get a shot and Nashville will immediately dump it down the ice. On a nother rebound the Predators race down the ice two on two against the Leafs, and Andersen is drawn to his glove side post, leaving a wide open net for Ryan Johnansson to try and one timer off a pass, but it hits the post and bounces out of the Leafs zone.

I love that post.

The Maple Leafs pick things up and get right close to the Predators net again, with Auston Matthews trying to trick Rinne, but can’t get the puck past him. The Maple Leafs are still having issues with face offs, particularly in the offensive zone. Nashville is getting the puck out of their end much too easily tonight.

As the second period draws to a close the Maple Leafs defense does a great job of breaking up a three on two coming into their end, knocking the puck lose and getting it up to the forwards. The Preds send it right back in, but it’s something.

The Maple Leafs aren’t playing badly tonight, it’s just that the Predators are playing a notch better. They’re keeping the Leafs from any good time on offense, and the ice feels just a little bit tilted towards the Maple Leafs net.

The second period ends, with the score still 1-0 Nashville.

Period notes:

  • Roman Josi was taken with the 2008 second round pick the Maple Leafs traded for Yanic Perrault
  • PK Subban thinks we’re as good as the cup winning Blackhawks
  • The Predators only had two shots on goal in the second period. Really.
  • It’s been 116 minutes since the Maple Leafs have scored on Pekka Rinne.

The third period begins with some offense for the Maple Leafs as Kasperi Kapanen gets a beautiful shot off but Rinne once again catches it with east. The Leafs do a good job controlling the play after this face off, with another solid minute of offense before the Predators got the puck out of their end.

Zach Hyman carries the puck into the Predators zone, takes the shot which is blocked by Rinne, and it gives John Tavares a wide open net to shot on, but Rinne gets just enough pad over to stop him in a moment that made me scream out loud.

The Leafs are certainly more amped offensively this period, but they can not get past Pekka Rinne. The first eight minutes of the third is a much higher tempo than the second period, and if the Leafs keep this up they may just score a goal.

Speaking of the Rinne save above, Frederik Andersen has made some fantastic and timely saves as well, they’re just from closer up and less spectacular. They’re better saves, obviously, but not as edge of your seat.

The Predators take the puck off Patrick Marleau and skate it down to the the Leafs zone, the puck gets up to Wayne Simmonds who scores his first goal as a Nashville Predator.

The score is now 2-0 Nashville.

Frederik Andersen is tested more after this goal, and stands up to the shots Nashville starts pouring on net. The Predators start tightening things up against the Maple Leafs, not allowing them many entries into the offensive zone. Poke checks, stick slaps, knock the puck away for the Preds to recover. When the Leafs get to the Preds net, Rinne stonewalls them as he has all game.

Frederik Andersen gets pulled for the sixth forward with three and a half minutes to go. Viktor Arvidsson is the first to try for the empty net goal, but gets icing at the three minute mark.

Morgan Rielly fights to keep the puck onside, and gets it down to MAtthews by the net, but he doesn’t score. PK Subban tries to get the goal, but ices it so the Leafs swap forwards to try again.

The Leafs try again, but the puck slips past to a cherry picking Filip Forsberg, who easily slides in the empty net goal, to make it 3-0 Predators.

That will seal the deal, Predators win 3-0.

Third period notes:

  • This is the first time the Leafs have been shutout since Feb. 16th in Arizona. Yeah, the Coyotes shut them out.
  • Pekka Rinne is really, really, good.
  • There are only nine more games in the regular season.

The Maple Leafs next game is tomorrow night at home in Buffalo against the Sabres. Start time is 7:30. See you there.