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Maple Leafs hang on to beat Detroit 5-4

It was a pretty fun game, even if it was closer than it should have been.

Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images

The Detroit Red Wings got off to an unexpected start this season, coming into tonight’s record with a 4-2-2 record, after going 19-27-10 last season. Dylan Larkin (8 points) and youngsters Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond (7 each) are working hard to turn this team around offensively. The Red Wings played without top scorer Tyler Bertuzzi (9pts) as he isn’t vaccinated and could not join the team on their Canadian road trip.

Morgan Rielly played his first game for the Maple Leafs after signing his big new eight year contract, and after lots of talk about turning around their games the Leafs put up, and didn’t shut up either. Let’s get to the recap, which I’m doing because I’m the only person here who isn’t at a wedding or Halloween party, because I don’t get invited to things. It’s fine. Omar’s also here GIFing, but I’m sure he has plans after the game.

The game starts quick - or, on time, as some may say - with both teams trading shots quick, and we almost get Morgan Rielly opening the scoring followed by Michael Bunting coming even closer.

The Leafs keep on coming at the Wings, even Jake Muzzin tries to get more going for the team tonight, getting a huge breakout pass up to Mitch Marner who dances around the Wings, but doesn’t connect on the backhand pass.

It’s probably the best start of the season for the Leafs, especially for Mitch Marner who is doing his best to score. Sometimes being a little too fancy.

The Red Wings didn’t want to fall too far behind, but halfway through the period go down 8-2 in shots, and 12-2 in shot attempts. They get close to the net, but can’t get anything past Mrazek, so they get a little rough. Nick Ritchie wasn’t having any of that though.

The play evens up as the period goes on, with Detroit getting more and more offensive zone time. Nothing gets by Mrazek, not shots make dramatic saves or close calls.

The Leafs put more pizzazz into their game though, getting the crowd on their feet behind the Wings net.

With 13 seconds left in the first period, Jake Muzzin becomes the first Leafs defender to score this season, and he ends the period on a high note.

Justin Holl is not having a fun night in the press box.

The second period opens with more proper time starting, or something like that, as the Leafs continue to pour on the offense against the Red Wings. Wayne Simmonds has the biggest reaction in those first five minutes, getting a good “ohhhhhhhhh” from the crowd as he almost doubles the score.

The defense is also working hard against Detroit. While Mrazek had to make a save or two that got me to wipe some sweat from my brow, Timothy Liljegren is working hard to never get iced from the line up again.

John Tavares is the victim of a questionable hit by Michael Rasmussen earlier in the period, and then gets called for slashing that same player. Huh.

The Red Wings get the first powerplay, which ranks 25th in the NHL scoring at a 12.9% rate. it’s not an exciting power play to watch, but they get a shot or two off near the net. The most exciting part is when Pierre Engvall gets a break away at the blue line, but shoots wide and hits the post.

The least exciting part is when Filip Zadina scores from the glove side face off circle. i guess the book’s out on Mrazek. Game is tied 1-1.

We have some good chances against Detroit when Matthews, Nylander, Bunting, and Sandin all work hard to try and tie the game but just can’t get it done.

The pace is high and the shots are plentiful as the Leafs and Red Wings trade rushes to each others ends, and the goalies are forced to make some great saves. No goals but it’s not for lack of trying.

The defense’s play at the blue line has been pretty on point (heh) tonight, aside from a few missed passes, and the Leafs keep the play in the Red Wings zone very nicely through two periods. No huge gaffs, no bad takeaways. The boys are blocking shots in their own end, and deflecting pucks with sticks. At the risk of jinxing the third period, this may be one of the best games I’ve seen them play in a while.

Michael Rasmussen is finally called for his nonsense when he slashes Jason Spezza, and the Leafs will spend the final two minutes of the second period on the power play. The PP is 1/41 in their last 18 home games, so it’s time to change the situation. The Leafs try to set up close to the net, but Detroit’s defense steals the pucks and sends it down to Mrazek.

Michael Bunting is the man to get the Leafs their first home power play goal in a long, long, time, scoring through traffic to give the Leafs back their lead.

Another late period goal, the Leafs go into intermission leading 2-1.

The Leafs decided to change things up in the third and score in the first minute, rather than the last. Alex Kerfoot makes it 3-1.

The Red Wings take offense to that and come right back and score one of their own, Joe Veleno makes it 3-2 as Mrazek is distracted by the play around the net.

Veleno’s next trick is to draw a penalty, by getting TJ Brodie called for holding, and the Red Wings are off to their second power play of the game.

They play it well, spending plenty of time setting up shots, passing the puck around the Leafs zone for a solid minute. Eventually the Leafs get it out so the PK units can swap. No goal for the Red Wings with the man advantage.

Off a face off the Leafs flip the puck high in the air to centre ice, leading to a challenge on Tomas Greiss that sees bodies pile up aroudn the net and the puck just sitting there in the crease, hoping someone will notice it. Sadly, a Red Wing does and get sit out of the zone.

Doesn’t last long though as the Leafs come right back on a two on one, and Alex Kerfoot pays back John Tavares by setting him up for the Leafs fourth goal of the game. 4-2 Toronto.

The Red Wings come back a few minutes later, when Veleno and Namestnikov team up to cut the lead to one, once again.

To rub things in, the Maple Leafs then also get a penalty because Morgan Rielly gets a 4 minute high sticking penalty that’s cut to two because of the goal. They say he hit Namestnikov, but a replay makes it seem like it was really Rasmussen who got his own teammate. Replay shows Rielly is innocent, as we all knew from the start.

Both teams keep the pressure up, no one’s taking a shift off tonight. Mrazek has to make some big saves, Greiss is put on the spot as well. Back and forth, back and forth.

Finally! Mitch Marner breaks his goal drought and scores his first of the season into an empty net as Greiss is out of position. 5-2 Leafs!

Empty or no, getting one in should help Mitch out a lot.

The Red Wings pull Greiss to try and tie the game with a couple minutes remaining. They get a lot of offensive zone time, trapping the Leafs in their own end. Eventually the work pays off, and Hronek bombs the puck through a screen and brings Detroit within one.

12 seconds left, Fabbri gets called for holding Alex Kerfoots stick, so the Leafs get a brief power play at the end of the game. Even though the Leafs have the PP the 12 seconds are spent in the in the Leafs end with a lot of scrambling for shots and saves, but the Leafs hang on for a 5-4 win.

Overall it wasn’t perfect, but it was a pretty entertaining game. It seems like the Leafs yelled at each other a lot since the Chicago game and it paid off. Liljegren-Sandin were a god third pair, and overall the defense seemed better than it has been this season.

Sorry Justin Holl.

The next game is Tuesday night, at home against the Vegas Golden Knights who are already in town and may look a lot different come game time.

The game is at 7. See you then.