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Opportunistic Leafs Offense Outscores Flailing Flames

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Ending the road trip with a win

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

The game starts in a pretty nondescript fashion, but Calgary gets the first chance of the game about two minutes in. Derek Ryan and Joakim Nordstrom combine to create a rebound chance in close, but Campbell moves well to save it and keep the Leafs from getting in a hole early. However, this is the first of a few netfront scrambles and chances that miraculously stay out. One such chance requires Travis Dermott to shovel the puck off the goal line with Campbell down and out. A bit of a nervy start for Toronto.

The next shift, Auston Matthews tries an extremely audacious backhand through the legs that goes just wide. That would’ve been on a lot of highlight reels had it gone in.

That moment of excitement aside, the first period trundles along in pretty anodyne fashion, with the Leafs unable to create their usual spate of high quality chances at the net front. The best chance in this stretch is Pierre Engvall creating an odd man rush out of nothing with his speed, but squandering it with a poor decision to pass rather than shoot.

Meanwhile, the Flames keep creating decent chances by winning faceoffs in the offensive zone, using the points, and getting tips or rebounds. Which is mildly concerning, because of how similar this looks to some games against the Habs.

With about four minutes to go in the period, Ilya Mikheyev draws a penalty by taking the puck hard to the net, and forcing Nikita Nesterov to hook him. It ends up being a rather unsuccessful power play, like so many recently have been.

The rest of the period crawls by. Not a great advertisement for NHL hockey on display so far.

Second Period

Early on in the second, the Flames generate another net-front scramble where Campbell seems to lose track of the puck. Once again, it requires rescuing from a Leafs defenseman (Justin Holl this time). The Leafs are living on the edge a little bit right now.

But like they do so often, the Leafs get opportunistic. The line of Alex Kerfoot, Jason Spezza, and Joe Thornton were the Leafs best in the first, and they continue that in the middle frame. A great cycle leads to Kerfoot centring for Spezza, who has shaken free of Noah Hanifin for a tap-in. 1-0 Toronto.

And then they do it again! On a mixed shift, a turnover from the Flames leads to a rush chance with Nylander and Matthews. As we saw so often in their first two years, they know what to do from there, and it’s Matthews who rips it by Jacob Markstrom. 2-0 Leafs.

TJ Brodie made a nice play to kick-start that rush by defending his own blueline.

Shortly after, Mikheyev makes another million dollar move with a ten-cent finish to get to the net-front and fail to score. He’s rather good at that. The goals obviously help make things look rosier, but the Leafs also finally are generating some actual offense.

On the other hand, everything is going wrong for the Flames, it seems. Sean Monahan is basically all alone in front and wires a wrister about 10 feet wide... a real record scratch moment there.

With a couple minutes to go in the period, the Flames get a lifeline. A strong forecheck from Milan Lucic (arguably a trip) robs the puck from Brodie. This leads to a bad angle shot from Hanifin, but it deflects off Brodie right to Andrew Mangiapane, who pots it behind a stranded Campbell. 2-1 Leafs.

Mangiapane is turning into quite the Leaf killer, albeit in (mostly) losing causes. The goal puts a bit of a damper on an otherwise successful period for the Leafs,

Third Period

The Flames tie it up early in the third, which isn’t unfair with how the game has gone. Mikael Backlund slides it by Jack Campbell almost immediately after a draw to tie it 2-2. Looks like the puck deflects in off Travis Dermott.

The Leafs answer right back, and once again, it’s the depth. Pierre Engvall circles the offensive zone and fires a weak shot on net, and Simmonds tips it in from the crease. Simmonds was on his knees after getting roughed up by a Flames defender, but that didn’t stop him poking it home. 3-2 Leafs.

The Flames push a bit in the next phase of the period, as you would expect. Campbell makes a couple great saves midway through the period on Nordstrom and Backlund. The Leafs play a little more on the rush now, and use that to their advantage, as Mikheyev draws another penalty with a power rush on the outside (this leads to a Mikheyev breakaway, but as usual, he doesn’t finish).

You’d think the Leafs power play couldn’t get worse, but somehow, they manage it. They give up the most uncontested short-handed 2v1 that I can remember. Campbell makes a bit of a fool of himself with a desperation overplay on the pass, and Backlund taps it home off an Elias Lindholm pass. 3-3 tie.

The Leafs power play redeems itself shortly thereafter though! After Mitch Marner takes a shot from the right wing, there’s an enormous scramble in front that Matthews eventually puts away. Not a pretty goal, but we take them however we can get them now. 4-3 Leafs.

And JT wants to get in on the act too! After another net-front scramble, he snipes it from the slot. 5-3 Leafs.

Simmonds takes an interference penalty which he is none too happy about (I think it was a fair call). The Flames go to the power play and they need to score to have a realistic chance to win this game.

Like a microcosm for the Flames season, it’s squandered. Hyman takes a pretty nasty high stick from Mangiapane, and it draws blood, meaning it will be a 4 minute power play. The net result is 15 seconds of 4 on 4 and 3:45 (or less) of a Leafs power play, in a game with only 4 minutes remaining. That more or less finishes the game off.

Campbell makes a pretty ridiculous save on Matthew Tkachuk late in the game. It wouldn’t really make a difference either way, but who among us doesn’t enjoy Tkachuk getting denied what he wants. Anyways, the game ends 5-3, and we’re all happier for it.