It’s a really tepid start to the game, with neither team getting great chances. But about four minutes in, a strong Leafs breakout leads to a 3-on-2 with Jimmy Vesey, Justin Holl, and Wayne Simmonds. Holl takes a shot from the wing and the rebound deflects right to Simmonds, who is stopped on his first shot, but buries his second, for his second goal of the year. 1-0 Leafs.
The pace doesn’t really pick up because of the goal. The next decent chance for either team arrives in another four minutes, as a nifty give and go between Ilya Mikheyev and John Tavares gives the former a great chance in tight. Jacob Markstrom makes an excellent save to keep it 1-1.
The Leafs forward depth is putting together their best period of the season so far. Kerfoot’s line has had consistently strong shifts, and even the new look fourth line gets in on the act, with a strong spell of possession in the offensive zone.
Halfway through the first, Calgary has no official shots, but they are getting close at times. Dominik Simon gets a net-front shot away that is deflected wide off a scramble, and later on, Zach Bogosian intercepts a Johnny Gaudreau pass on a 2-on-1, which was created because of a Morgan Rielly rush that resulted in nothing, in combination with a bad William Nylander change. At the end of this shift, Pierre Engvall trips Derek Ryan and the Flames get a power play. It’s a very short power play, as Mikheyev immediately draws a hooking call of his own (on Elias Lindholm).
The Leafs make good on their opportunity immediately, and it’s exactly the power play goal you envision when you think of this team. Rielly finds Mitch Marner, on his strong side. Marner threads a cross-ice pass to Auston Matthews, and you know what happens then. 2-0 Leafs.
My full analysis of that Leafs goal: I enjoy when Matthews does the shooty thing and it goes in.
With four minutes left in the period, the Flames get their first shot on net; a point shot that got redirected in front. Deciding that was enough offense for now, they take another penalty. No goal for the Leafs on this one. The rest of the period flies by.
The Flames immediately score in the second period. Johnny Gaudreau cashes in on a rebound after he’s left all alone in front. Pretty ugly defending there from Toronto. 2-1 Leafs.
Johnny Gaudreau puts the Flames on the board. 2-1 pic.twitter.com/7qztFX0Kmu— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 27, 2021
But the Leafs answer right back! Some really terrible defending from the Flames leaves Boyd all alone on a drive up the middle. He takes a nice pass from Engvall and chips it up over Markstrom. 3-1 Leafs. The goals from the depth are the difference in this game so far.
In general, the Leafs fourth line looks quite strong. The Flames aren’t going away quietly, however. Their top line spends some extended time in the Leafs zone, and they generate some great chances that Andersen saves. This pattern continues for a large part of the second, and suddenly, the Leafs are collapsing in their own zone, and unable to consistently generate breakouts anymore.
All this pressure pays off, as the puck bounces off a Leaf skate and squirts right into the slot, where Milan Lucic waits and fires it five-hole on Andersen. 3-2 Leafs.
Milan Lucic brings the Flames within one. 3-2 pic.twitter.com/KFBk4bIWRP— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 27, 2021
The Leafs get back into the groove of things somewhat the rest of the way, with a couple reasonable chances from Marner and Tavares to stem the tides somewhat. But this period in general has been much more tilted towards the Flames, and is also higher event than the first, which has made the overall shot and chance numbers go towards the Flames as well.
Compounding this, with just over two minutes to go, Marner trips Andrew Mangiapane, and the Leafs go back to the penalty kill. Andersen has to make a stunning save on Lindholm, and the Leafs go into the third with a slender 3-2 lead.
The third period starts much how the second ended, with Calgary taking it to Toronto and generating scrambles, redirections, and chances in front. The Leafs do get an occasional chance; Vesey has a good one in the slot after a Markstrom giveaway. However, the general run of play very clearly is in favour of Calgary. Mikael Backlund in particular generated a bunch of good shots in tight which have made the third period very nervy.
Eight minutes in, Andersson capitalizes on a Rielly OZ turnover and goes on an excursion below the goal line. It leads to a centering pass in front for Mangiapane, and I genuinely can’t believe he missed it. Huge break for Toronto, who tests their luck further by taking another penalty (Tavares for holding).
Andersen finally fails the Leafs. Frankly, it was coming. Johnny Gaudreau takes a pass from behind the net and wires one top shelf to tie the game 3-3. The Leafs have been playing with fire for a while, and it’s finally burned them.
Johnny Gaudreau has another one. 3-3— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 27, 2021
That's a good shot pic.twitter.com/J7Y7UjAqBa
The Leafs seem to wake up slightly, with a handful of shifts in the offensive zone. It culminates with a one-timer goal from Mitch Marner, which is certainly not something I would have bet on! Probably a goal Markstrom wants back, but I’m not complaining. 4-3 Leafs.
With six minutes to go, Bogosian seems to take a knock, and goes off the ice gingerly. He’s genuinely been pretty good this game, and had a nice play in advance of the Marner goal.
Keefe is really riding the Matthews line here (understandably) and is nearly rewarded with another goal. Hyman and Matthews capitalize on a fortuitous bounce on an innocuous throw towards the net and get some chances in tight. Neither can beat Markstrom, however.
With just over two minutes to go, Joey Anderson takes a delay of game penalty, and Calgary get the chance to tie it on the power play. But a really strong kill from the Leafs sees them through to the end of the game, and finalizes a rather undeserved win. We take those.