The Leafs come off two frustrating shootout losses, and enter into a matchup with the defending Cup champs - one that will be a stern test of their level of play. Even without star defenseman, Kris Letang, the Penguins are frightening, and one of the few teams who can not only keep up with the Leafs speed in a track meet, but exceed it. Hopefully, the Leafs can play them tough and eke out a win.
- [Pregame] Elliotte Friedman’s suit is VERY blue.
- [Pregame] The Penguins played last night, so the Leafs should have some extra jump in their legs.
- [Pregame] The Pens 50th anniversary jerseys are straight fire.
- [20:00] Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, since they’re on a back to back.
- [20:00] Looks like Kadri is going to get hard-matched against Crosby tonight. Tough matchup for anyone. Looks like Babcock will go with Rielly - Zaitsev on D.
- [19:12] Trevor Daley is also missing, so the Penguins are very short-handed
- [18:33] After a great shift by the Matthews line, Hagelin runs a go route and gets on the end of a beautiful Hail Mary from Kessel. Carrick hooks him, and we have a penalty shot!
- [18:33] SAVED! Big chance there, after the Leafs had dominated the first two shifts. Going down to a cheeky play like that would have been pretty heartbreaking./
Andersen denies Carl Hagelin on the penalty shot. #TMLtalk pic.twitter.com/Sb8aQ26wkw— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 18, 2016
- [18:01] Disjointed start to the game, as play is stopped while Fleury takes an accidental skate to the face from JVR. Looks like Murray will be coming in. Man, that could have been way worse. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
- [17:55] Fourth lines are matched up against each other. Will be interesting to se if one coach tries to abuse the other’s depth line on a matchup.
- [16:25] The Leafs are getting some good pressure early, but it’s not resulting in chances.
- [15:45] Honestly, it’s pretty shitty of fans to boo Kessel. He didn’t ask to be traded.
- [15:16] The Leafs draw a penalty. Kadri feathers a pass into the slot for Brown, but Ian Cole impedes the Leafs rookie. Chance for Toronto to get an early advantage here.
- [14:15] Not much doing for the Leafs PP so far.
- [13:16] Yeah, that PP sucked.
- [12:51] My goodness, Nylander is a wonderful offensive player. After the power play expires, he generates a shot off the rush, gets the puck back, feathers a cross-ice backhand pass to Hunwick for a point shot. Then Nylander pokes the puck free in front of the net for Ben Smith, but he can’t quite put it away. Great start for the Swede.
- [11:41] The Leafs have had more of the puck, but this game is wide open, both ways. one or two good passes and you’ll have a scoring chance.
- [10:57] Unsurprisingly, the Crosby line has Pittsburgh’s first extended visit to the Leafs zone. Penguins are more into it now.
- [9:45] Like I said, wide open. Defense is optional in this game. Even the Leafs 4th line is getting in on the offensive pressure.
- [8:40] Fleury is back in the game now.
- [8:20] Nylander takes a dumb offensive zone penalty. Pens to the PP.
- [7:56] This Penguins PP is really scary. And right on cue, Kessel rings one off the bar.
- [7:09] Penguins score! Some good movement from Pittsburgh leads to Schultz having a lot of room at the blueline. Andersen commits to the shot from the defenseman, who slides it to Malkin for an easy one-timer goal! 1-0 Penguins./
The best thing to do between periods? Watch more hockey, of course! Malkin tallies his 13th goal of the season on the power play. pic.twitter.com/IVvMkpkejH— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 18, 2016
- [6:55] Well, how’s that for a reply? The Leafs score immediately! Marner passes the puck to Zaitsev at the right point, and his shot deflects off a Penguins defenceman and over Fleury. The Penguins challenge though. If this gets overturned, I have no idea what goaltender interference actually is.
- [6:55] Goal stands. 1-1 tie./
Watch: Nikita Zaitsev gets his first career NHL goal. #TMLtalk #StandWitness pic.twitter.com/4j1nxQwidj— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 18, 2016
- [6:40] That’s Zaitsev’s first NHL goal.
- [6:20] The Kadri line gets more pressure and a few point shots. They’ve done well against Crosby so far.
- [5:32] Carrick has not had a great start to the game. Not only did he get beat for the penalty shot, but he nearly got victimized on a similar play against Matt Cullen. Gardiner saved his butt there.
- [4:05] The speed of the Matthews line is giving Pittsburgh fits. Nylander centers the puck out to Matthews after a failed rush, and the ensuing fracas results in Hyman getting tripped by Schultz. Leafs to the power play again.
- [3:14] A few decent semi-chances for the Leafs, but no extended pressure.
- [2:12] The Leafs 2nd unit PP generates some great chances, but nothing goes in the net, unfortunately.
- [0:33] The Penguins get a great chance of a rush. Malkin finds Schultz as a trailer, and Andersen flashes the leather.
- [0:00] Period ends without further incident. Fun, open period to watch. Leafs will head to the second tied. /
- [19:46] Kadri continues to mostly neutralize the Crosby line, thus far. Very impressive work against one of the two best players in the league.
- [19:20] The Penguins have seemingly blocked everything. Very frustrating - even though the Leafs have largely controlled play, the amount of chances that have reached the net is way more even.
- [17:57] Another Matthews line shift, another couple of chances created by Nylander/Matthews. That line has been one completed pass away from a goal this entire game.
- [16:50] Babcock is very fastidious about matching Kadri to Crosby. The 4th line hasn’t gotten involved at this point in the period for that reason.
- [16:18] Incidentally, the fourth line has been pretty good recently, by my recollection.
- [15:31] Kessel has had the puck pilfered from him a couple times in his own zone. Once to Matthews and once to Marner. Something oddly poetic about that.
- [14:47] Also, Hunlak has been pretty invisible tonight, which is basically what you want from your third pair.
- [14:25] The Kadri line spends ANOTHER shift in the Pittsburgh zone, again matched against Crosby. He may not get the overtime goal like he did against Edmonton, but he’s been just as good in terms of neutralizing the star.
- [14:10] There’s a commercial break now, so I can talk about how fucking asinine that HNIC graphic was about highest S% in a 50 goal season. For those who didn’t see, it was all players from the 80s who sustained mid-high 20% shooting percentages for a full year, and the commentators argued that Crosby could do something similar. They should have noted that the average forward shot like, 16% in those days... it’s a different game now. Anyways, mini rant over. Back to the game.
- [12:15] The Matthews line is straight up one of the best lines in the league. That’s my hot take after watching them for the last little bit. Hyman was super close to breaking the tie on a rebound after a great pass from Matthews to get Nylander an open shot from the slot.
- [11:40] Sheary pseudo-undresses Zaitsev, but Andersen stands tall.
- [10:54] The Leafs get hemmed in their own zone for the first time this period.
- [10:32] A short rest for Crosby results in him being matched up against the Leafs fourth line. To their credit, they don’t allow any shot attempts. They even generate a couple of their own as they go the other way.
- [9:07] A real track meet now in terms of end-to-end action.
- [7:58] The Matthews line is trapped in their own zone for the first time in a while. No harm done though.
- [7:23] Feels like it’s been quite a while since the last stoppage. Fun hockey to watch, very hard to recap.
- [7:00] Seriously, the Kadri line has been dynamite. They turn a D-zone faceoff into a rush shot against the Penguins.
- [6:29] One thing Marner really has in spades is patience with the puck. He lives between the line of making the ‘safe’ play, and hanging on to the puck for too long. It’s on full display tonight
- [6:23] Nylander is taking Brown’s spot on the fourth line - maybe Brown is hurt?
- [5:58] I generally like Matt Martin, but he looked like peak Clarkson on that shift. Fell down for no apparent reason, had a puck hit his stick while he looked around aimlessly, the whole nine yards.
- [5:46] Brown is back on the ice now, taking a shift with the Matthews line. Not really sure why. But the line has a nice shift, putting pressure on Pittsburgh’s second line of Malkin - Kessel - Hagelin.
- [4:52] Kadri does his best work, drawing a penalty as Pouliot shoves him into Fleury during a spell of extended Leaf pressure.
- [4:43] C’mon Leafs... get a goal here. You deserve it. Treat yo’ self.
- [3:45] The Leafs have some zone time, and Marner makes a brilliantly creative pass across the crease to Bozak. I don’t think Bozak expected that pass. No goal on the PP for the Leafs.
- [2:21] The HNIC crew notes that Kadri has neutralized Crosby, but attributes it to his faceoffs. You were so close.
- [1:57] Another unnecessary penalty from the Penguins, as Sheary slashes Zaitsev. Big chance for the Leafs.
- [1:38] The leafs are getting 95% of the way to a goal. It’s that final piece that’s missing.
- [1:00] Nylander overhandles the puck and it results in Pittsburgh clearing the zone.
- [0:00] Definitely a worse power play from the Matthews unit than the Bozak one. No goal again, and we head to the third period in a 1-1 tie. /
- [20:00] Alright, gut check time. Lets get a lead.
- [19:15] As good as the Leafs have been tonight, Pittsburgh is so dangerous. So many game breaking talents on offense.
- [17:57] Tentative start to the period from the Leafs. No major incidents either way.
- [16:39] As disappointing as Rielly’s defensive development may be, he is so crafty and smart offensively. He sneaks in to the circle and gets a great shot on Fleury, who makes the save.
- [15:36] Matthews makes one or two dekes per game that just blow my mind. He’s so skilled and smooth.
- [14:42] Hunwick continues his tradition of taking needless third period penalties. He high sticks Hornqvist, and draws blood, so it’s going to be a four minute penalty. Not good.
- [14:42] All snark aside, Hunwick is kind of unlucky here. His stick hits Hornqvist’s stick into his face. Shouldn’t be a penalty at all. Greater than 50% chance Pittsburgh scores here.
- [13:35] No great chances yet, but it feels like just a matter of time. That said, the Leafs PK has done a nice job so far.
- [12:49] Oh no. Soshnikov skies the puck out of play trying to clear it as soon as possible. One undeserved penalty leads to a bad one for the Leafs. And the Penguins will have a two minute 5v3. This is about as dire a situation as it gets.
- [12:21] The offensive talent on the Penguins is really unfair. It feels like they’re playing with their food.
- [11:39] The crowd is really giving it to Kessel. As I said before, not a fan of that.
- [11:11] Crosby has a one-timer chance, but Zaitsev blocks it spectacularly. About 17 seconds left.
- [10:44] Leafs kill it off! Herculean effort. What a great penalty kill.
- [10:17] Credit to Polak and Smith. Smith won an absolutely critical faceoff, and Polak played pretty much the whole 5v3.
- [8:53] Wow, what a crazy play. Kessel gets a breakaway, but his stick shatters mid shot. The changeup almost fools Andersen, but he keeps it out.
- [8:16] Leafs haven’t had a real strong offensive shift in a while. Makes sense, with all the penalties, but it’d be nice to see them get a nice chance of five.
- [7:10] Gardiner makes this ridiculous spinning backhand pass directly to Hyman, who runs over Fleury on his way to the net. No call, and Nylander centers to no one in an attempt to take advantage of the temporarily vacated net.
- [6:42] Odds of a Kessel shootout goal to beat us are pretty high now, huh?
- [5:31] The Matthews line hasn’t generated as much offensively this period - surrendered a few chances against too.
- [5:20] I mentioned this off the top, but the fact that the Penguins played yesterday is likely a huge factor in their mediocre play tonight. And they’re missing two regular defensemen, including their best.
- [4:39] I’m generally ok with Hyman on the first line, but he sometimes has tunnel vision in the offensive zone. He had Nylander making a smart play to drift into space at the top of the offensive zone, but he tried to force his way wide to the net, and ended up doing nothing much.
- [4:05] Definitely getting next goal wins vibe from this game now. Neither team wants to make the mistake that ends it.
- [2:18] Bench getting shortened now. Lots of the Matthews and Bozak like as the Leafs push to win it in regulation.
- [1:36] Kessel has 10 shot attempts tonight. Been very active.
- [0:39] Marner has a great chance to show off his wrist shot from the top of the circle, but Fleury stops him. Obviously, both goalies have been great, as you’d expect in a 1-1 game.
- [0:00] Regulation ends, and we go to 3-on-3./
- [5:00] This OT could be seriously electric. Let’s get going.
- [4:49] Kadri gets a good shot to start, but the Penguins regroup.
- [4:27] Controlled possession for Pittsburgh now.
- [3:55] Interestingly, Matthews is with Hyman, as opposed to being paired with Nylander.
- [3:22] Marner is magical! The Leafs score after incredible work from the rookie. He generates a great scoring chance, and opportunistically capitalizes on a bad turnover from Pouliot. Fleury tried to make an all or nothing play to poke check it, but Marner smartly fed it to Gardiner, who made no mistake. /
Fleury misses with the poke check and Jake Gardiner nets the @budcanada game-winning goal for the @MapleLeafs. https://t.co/C04IzZYF5C— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 18, 2016
- Great game by the Leafs. Great win, especially after two disheartening shootout losses. Marner played brilliantly tonight, with two primary assists, as did the entire Kadri line in neutralizing Crosby. Really, everyone played pretty well, including the usual whipping boys. And as usual, it was a rookie stealing the show. Imagine how good he’d be if he wasn’t too small. /