It certainly could’ve been worse. After falling behind 0-3 i the first half of the game, the Toronto Maple Leafs mounted a second period comeback against the Minnesota Wild only to lose in a shootout. Jason Spezza scored twice and added an assist for a three-point night. Morgan Rielly finished with a Mitch Marner hat trick (three assists), and Auston Matthews scored as well in the loss. Jack Campbell stopped 37 of 40 in the loss, very similar to his counterpart Cam Talbot, who gave up three on 42 shots.
Usually the Leafs have fallen apart when falling behind early, for example the Penguins game from earlier in the season, but credit to them they fought back and tied the game all before the third period. Spezza was obviously huge in that, but all of Matthews, Tavares, Nylander, and Rielly brought their A-game. They showed fight, which is promising.
The fact that the win-o-meter swung the Leafs way at all after the 0-3 goal, that’s impressive to say the Leafs. You win some and you lose some, at the very least the Leafs got a point, didn’t lose the game in real hockey, and continue their strong form.
With Marner out of the lineup, Simmonds jumped up to the top line with Matthews and Bunting. That line had a lot of fun below the goal line and in the corners, but it was pretty clear Matthews wasn’t going to play as much as the other two. True to that form, after the Leafs got an offensive zone faceoff, Matthews jumped out on the left wing with Tavares and Nylander. After seeing the third line the shift before, that trio was, uh, notably better.
Rielly got high-sticked midway through the period, sending the Leafs to the power play. The opening faceoff was scuffled a bit, but the puck somehow got to Matthews in the slot. His clapper got parried away by Talbot’s blocker. The power play had some trouble making passes as Rielly left the puck behind him once, and then Tavares sent it to the wrong spot when going back to the point.
Holl bobbles a puck at the defensive blue line and the Wild take advantage with the first goal of the game scored by Jordan Greenway.
Jordan Greenway scores with 24 seconds left in the first pic.twitter.com/1PVsvXsQqt— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
Not a markedly bad period for the Leafs, but Jack Campbell had to make three or four really big saves off the rush and in front. He looked sharp in the first period, very positionally sound and dialed in. Shot attempts were 14-16, but the Leafs only had 33% of the expected goals.
After Rielly went to the box for cross checking, the Leafs got a power play. Matthews had another chance on his own rebound but couldn’t get all of it on the second shot against Talbot’s left pad.
Matthews is the only one getting looks on the power play so far pic.twitter.com/EFGhxCDxrA— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
Another goal for the Wild against Muzzin-Holl, this one was on the penalty kill with Kaše in the box. Zuccarello sent a pass to the slot and the puck ricocheted off Holl skate and in.
Now a penalty to Dermott after Sandin stepped up at the line and the Wild got through on transition.
Another one, this one from Marcus Foligno off a faceoff. Two bad bounces, first off a clear from Brodie, then off a shot block from Matthews.
The Leafiest goal against I've ever seen— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
Brodie's clear attempt is deflected and goes right to a Wild player. A shot is taken and the rebound hits the ref pic.twitter.com/pLU7tYpKHM
The Leafs were now chasing the puck and feeling outnumbered at all points on the ice. At this point, Keefe finally put Nylander with Matthews.
Nylander, who had been the best player on the Leafs to this point, had a brilliant drive past Goligoski. He went around the outside, but Talbot stretched the pad and made an incredible save.
Cam Talbot robbed a wicked effort by William Nylander pic.twitter.com/ySPuwu7qO8— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
Spezza! Another weird bounce as Spezza scores from an impossible angle (beyond what he tries in practice) as the puck bounces off the back of Talbot’s head an in to put the Leafs on the board.
In a game of magical goofy bounces, Jason Spezza went sage mode pic.twitter.com/92IiO1dErv— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
That goal seemed to give the Leafs some more life. Well, either that or the Leafs were looking a lot more dangerous anytime Nylander was on the ice.
Tavares, Nylander, and Matthews had yet another big chance in front of the net. Matthews deftly tipped a point shot from Rielly for Tavares to jam away at the puck in front of the net. Nylander dove into the pile to get the rebound with Matthews following up for the third time, but Talbot collapsed and didn’t open a hole for the puck to slip through. Jordie Benn took a penalty on the play, leading to...
JT spins off his man and grinds out a penalty pic.twitter.com/Jai0ynSSui— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
Spezza with his second on the power play from the bumper position! Assists to Matthews and Rielly, with Nylander creating a great screen in front.
A new-look third line nearly scored again as Simmonds was hooked by Goligoski otherwise he would’ve tied it. Good pass from Ritchie at the side of the net to get the puck to the Scarborough legend.
And in the final minute of the period, Matthews ties the game on the power play! A third point for Spezza as he gets the primary assist. Also getting his third point: Morgan Rielly!
AUSTON MATTHEWS— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
TIE GAME! WHAT A PASS BY SPEZZA pic.twitter.com/DuawHfPakt
These screenshots are courtesy of Katya. Here is the Leafs shot map after the 0-3 goal and then the shot map after the 3-3 game. Safe to say the blob got better. In terms of who was getting those chance, it was Nylander, Tavares, a big gap, and then Kerfoot and the rest. Safe to say that second line is pretty dominant at the moment. In all situations, Matthews was the top Leaf in chances, so he’s at least getting it done when it matters most.
Rielly and Eriksson-Ek both held each other’s sticks, but only Rielly got the penalty. Then on the penalty kill faceoff, Kämpf gets called for a high-sticking penalty. Muzzin, Holl, and Kerfoot were out to kill the penalty in front of Campbell, who made one very good save on Zuccarello. In the dying seconds of the 5-on-3, Campbell lost his stick while trying to spin around and stop a shot on the far side. He didn’t have to formally make a save but it was very stressful as Rielly eventually got out of the box, got to the puck first, and cleared it away. Credit to the trio for killing the whole 1:48 of the 5-on-3 on the road.
Rielly was the only one called for holding the stick pic.twitter.com/re8A4h6xn6— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
The Leafs ran lots of lines in the second two periods, but one that I especially liked was Spezza with Matthews and Bunting. Even if they can’t run it for the whole game, it created some good chances when together.
I’d like to disagree with Omar, Dermott went full Dermott there.
Travis Dermott went T.J. Brodie mode pic.twitter.com/6WOeD5J98P— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 5, 2021
In the final 30 seconds of regulation, Foligno drove the net and ran all the way through Campbell. The Leafs cleared the puck despite there being no call for goalie interference at all. Keefe was yelling at the refs afterwards and rightfully so as Campbell was both in his crease and hit in the head. What more do you need to make that call? For it to have happened 40 minutes sooner?
Matthews, Nylander, and Rielly to start. Kaprizov had the first chance, but shot the puck very high and wide. Brodin caught the Leafs on a line change, but he kicked the puck forward and Campbell cleared the puck into the bench.
Tavares had a chance a minute and a half in. Bunting nearly got a rebound on a second shot from Muzzin. Campbell made a good poke check going the other way on Fiala just before that play.
Kaprizov had another chance, but Nylander tied him up and stopped the shot. Going the other way, Nylander made a nice pass to Matthews behind him, Rielly followed up and nearly beat Talbot under the blocker.
With Engvall, Tavares, and Sandin on the ice Dumba had a point shot, but Campbell came across and made the save.
Spezza nearly got his hat trick, but he got slashed hard on the hands and had to go to the room to check on his right arm/left hand. Brodin got called for slashing and the Leafs went to the power play for less than a minute. Wild fans didn’t like it, but I’m sure they wouldn’t have liked that goalie interference call either.
Nylander nearly scored twice on the power play, but nothing doing as a shootout was needed. The Leafs big four was clearly exhausted as they didn’t move much on the power play.
- Zuccarello scores on Campbell (0-1)
- Kaše stopped by Talbot
- Fiala stopped by Campbell!
- Matthews scores! (1-1)
- Kaprizov scores on Campbell (1-2)
- Nylander stopped by Talbot