Ilya Mikheyev scored the game-winning goal with three minutes to go in regulation with a shot from a terrible angle to close out a dramatic, controversial, and fluctuant game 6-5 in regulation. Auston Matthews scored his 10th straight goal on the road, topping up his own Leafs record, and Timothy Liljegren scored his first career NHL goal in the win. Jack Campbell stopped 20 of 25 shots he faced, while the Leafs scored six goals on 40 shots.
The Leafs were very good offensively in this game, but they gave up a lot of dangerous chances to the Blues, and Campbell wasn’t his best for most of the game, but he somehow made it to the end. There were also a lot of bad non-penalty calls, especially in the second when the Leafs had the lead.
Six different Leafs scored besides Matthews, Mikheyev, and Liljegren, with Mitch Marner lighting the lamp in his return, Michael Bunting scoring his first in 10 games, and John Tavares doing his thing.
Defensively, the Leafs didn’t give up too many shots against (35 at 5v5), but they weren’t keeping any of them away from the front of the net. The Leafs, however, were on a shooting spree in response to the Blues covering up the front of the net with their big defensemen.
Ryan O’Reilly finished off a tic-tac-toe with his wingers on a zone entry with a deke past Campbell. Muzzin had his guy covered, Sandin had his, but Matthews got completely walked around.
Bunting! Matthews made up for his gaffe on the O’Reilly goal by shooting the faceoff forward towards the Blues goalie so Bunting could bury the rebound. A clever play against one of the league’s best faceoff guys and a game after Matthews was pretty poor on faceoffs. I’ve already talked about faceoffs too much now.
Matthews gets a shot on net right off the face-off and Bunting sends in the rebound pic.twitter.com/B86p9XePmq— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
Marner steals and scores!! That mistake seemed to wake up Matthews as he made a second smart play that lead to a goal. This time, Matthews harried the puck carrier as the Blues were trying to get out of the zone. That created a loose puck that Marner captured, turned around with, and placed into the top corner with a smooth shot.
Marner picks up the turnover and roofs one on Binnington pic.twitter.com/PhGG4OqGsp— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
Captain! Tavares gave the Leafs a two-goal lead with a big shot off a rebound. Rielly took a point shot that got stuck between Kerfoot and a Blues player in the middle of the zone. The Blues were trying to exit the zone and started creeping northward as Tavares scooped up the puck and sniped a heavy shot past the Blues goalie.
️ vs.— Hardev (@HardevLad) January 16, 2022
Dermott tried to hip check Ivan Barbashev, but he ended up getting him with the knee and jarred the Blues player. No call on the play.
Dermott went for a hip check but collided knees with Ivan Barbashev pic.twitter.com/tH2jukbI0q— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
Niko Mikkola knocked down Bunting along the boards during a puck battle. As the two were leaving the zone, the two were chirping back and forth, as one usually does. Torey Krug then escalated the situation by jumping Bunting a hammering at the back of his head. Krug got two minutes for roughing, but Bunting got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, I couldn’t tell you why. The refs probably didn’t want to be mean to the Blues because they were behind.
It started with Mikkola hitting Bunting pic.twitter.com/d33wxMBEhK— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
Krug catches Bunting while he's chirping Mikkola on the bench pic.twitter.com/KcGxkwR8WA— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
It was a good period for the Leafs. Not only did they put three goals in the bank, but they led in shot share (18-13), shots on goal (14-8), scoring chances (10-7), and they had 70% of the expected goals. After the opening goal gaffe, the Matthews line did really well offensively. They were responsible for most of the chances for the Leafs (the Tavares line and Engvall also had their chances) and they kept the puck out of the defensive zone.
The vast majority of the chances came from the left circle, or the Matthews/Bunting side of the ice, as did all the goals.
Marner and Rielly connected early in the second period for this chance. Rielly barreled towards the net and nearly got a shot off before James Neal hooked and knocked him down. No call.
Marner and Rielly with a quick give and go pic.twitter.com/ktiyDUFytU— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
O’Reilly got his second goal off another bad bounce off the end boards. This happened in Arizona too. Liljegren tried to get the puck, but he missed the initial pass and the rebound off the boards. O’Reilly didn’t really do anything for the goal, the puck just bounced off his skate and Matthews’ stick.
Matthews was having a good night for the most part, especially when his team had the puck or was transitioning between the two, but O’Reilly was eating him alive in the Leafs defensive zone.
Ryan O'Reilly gets the credit but this goes off Matthews' stick pic.twitter.com/4txqjdl9go— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
Muzzin was shaken up before the goal from this hit by Klim Kostin pic.twitter.com/NdSAgJgmD4— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
100 seconds later, Brandon Saad was left wide open in front of the net by the third pair and beat Campbell pretty easily.
Timothy Liljegren scores his first career NHL goal with a huge blast from the point! We saw that shot too many times in the AHL it was bound to show up in the NHL.
Dermott sets Liljegren up for the slapper pic.twitter.com/n8yvo267QA— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
Sandin with Liljegren after the goal pic.twitter.com/8azV0mcSn3— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
The Leafs then had to do some defense because, well, they weren’t playing well. Liljegren definitely had a couples springs in his feet, but otherwise, thank you Brodie.
Liljegren did have his feet, however, jumping up into the play and making some really nice passes, including this one for Nylander.
Liljegren sets Nylander up for a one-timer of his own pic.twitter.com/JFewZMaw4J— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
Kyrou tackled Liljegren away from the puck, just plain tripping/roughing/holding/anything. No call. The puck goes behind the net and Robert Thomas scores.
Robert Thomas ties it for the Blues again pic.twitter.com/nBqmPIW4pu— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
A less-good period, but holy hell some of the calls in that period had me baffled. The shots were by-and-large even for both teams, but the Blues flipped
the script on the Leafs and scored three goals to one in the second period.
So, that was a chaotic start to the period.
First, Clifford blocked a shot with....his ribs? Not sure where it hit specifically, but it hurt nonetheless. Wow.
Then Mikkola scored on the short side against Campbell, who missed his post on the cross over.
Dermott got a stick twisted up into his balls in the second period and wasn’t on the bench in the third, so Keefe was putting his five remaining defensemen in the washing machine to see what worked. Muzzin played with both Sandin and Liljegren. Brodie was also with Sandin at one point. I’d say none of the results were great. All were as good as the default top-four or worse.
Liljegren is good with the body around the net, but he lacks the ability to get his stick free for a check at this level. Too many times his stick has been in the air when his guy had the puck on his stick. He needs to improve his work with one hand on the stick if he wants to be in the top-four properly. As much as people don’t like the rest of Holl’s game, he can do that one thing right.
Good news, Dermott returned about 10 minutes into the period. His first shift in the third was with Sandin.
Kerfoot drew a penalty from a huge chance created for him by Tavares. As he was trying to scoop the puck back around to Muzzin at the point, he was hauled down. The next power play was a huge opportunity.
And Matthews took advantage! First off, what a Mitch Marner pass from Mitch Marner behind the net. He completely fooled the Blues goalie and a couple more players too. That left Matthews to find a closing corner of the net, which he did. That goal was Matthews’ 10th straight game with a goal on the road, extending his own Leafs streak and is now only one game/goal back from Steve Yzerman’s all-time NHL record.
AUSTON MATTHEWS— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
10 STRAIGHT ON THE ROAD pic.twitter.com/7pU60FLkdE
Marner got Binnington going one way pic.twitter.com/xzQ2EO7TdO— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
Leafs bench reaction to the Matthews goal pic.twitter.com/1en5Z4iWjW— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
ILYA MIKHEYEV DID WHAT!? He won us the game with three minutes to go, that’s what!!! Mikheyev threw the puck at the Blues goalie from an awful angle and it snuck its way through. In fact, no one knew where the puck was, even though it was tucked in nicely between the central post of the net and the mesh.
Rielly took a puck over glass penalty with six seconds left in the game, but Kampf won the faceoff and the Leafs won the game.