It's the night after a tough loss in Vancouver and the second game of a back-to-back against a Seattle team that is depleted by injuries and suspensions. Oh, and it's a 9:00 p.m. start. What could go wrong?
It turns out, not much. The Leafs won and Ilya Samsonov got his first win in more than a month. Here's recap of the game.
Samsonov is in net for the Leafs and Joey Daccord is the Kraken goalie. Knies is back on the top line with Matthews while Holmberg is back down on the fourth line. That experiment ended quickly.
Conor Timmins gets everyone fired up at the start of the game by shoving Chris Tanev into the boards after a race to the puck.
Tanev got up and went after Timmins, and then Simon Benoit jumped in to the scrum and the result was an early power play for Seattle, but the Leafs kill it off.
Then Tanev gets a breakaway and it's stopped by Samsonov but Benoit checks Tanev into the glass behind the net. It's a legal play, but Tanev is getting majorly worked up now and you can feel something is going to explode soon.
That's when Auston Matthews does his magic to put the Leafs on the board first.
That's goal #38 on the season for Matthews.
Then we get the inevitable Tanev fight. It starts with him dropping Timothy Liljegren with a backwards hit to which and Jake McCabe drops the gloves.
We also got to see that McCabe's pads are so worn out they're almost falling apart.
All this and it's only half way through the first period. The Kraken calmed down and settled in to the Leafs zone on a few occasions, definitely making Samsonov do some work.
With the Leafs on the attack, Knies still looks good along the boards. It's interesting to think right now about where to place him in next year's Top 25.
At least I was thinking about that, but then Max Domi takes a cross-checking penalty and the Leafs are on the PK for all but the final minute of the period.
The call was questionable, but there was no reason for Domi to put himself in the situation. However, the Leafs kill it off and we have the final minute pass with a final rush chance for the Leafs and, oh it's Domi who gets off the shot, but it's stopped by Daccord. The final minute winds up with the Leafs ahead 1-0.
We go into the intermission with the one millionth advertisement for Law & Order Toronto I've seen this week. The show doesn't even premier until a month from now and I'm already sick of it.
The Kraken gift the Leafs a power play to start the period. John Tavares has the net-front position and really wants this one but doesn't get it in the net on two opportunities. However, the power play ends and some magic happens for Nick Robertson with a perfect setup first from Bertuzzi and then Domi putting the Leafs up 2-0.
A note is immediately prior to the goal McCabe went out after taking a puck to the knee and it looked painful.
I am hearing that this game is boring, and I guess that's true as I realise I haven't taken any notes for about five minutes of game time now and maybe I sort of drifted off, but then Matthews comes through to wake us all up with a great shot that is stopped by Daccord, and then another comes from Marner too.
But then Chris Cuthbert curses the Leafs by talking about how Jordan Eberle has a goal per game record against them and literally about four seconds after he mentions this...
OK now we're all awake and there's a big trade of chances back and forth with the Leafs first line on Matthews gets multiple chances and so do the Kraken with a heart attack moment of Samsonov losing his stick and still stopping multiple shots against.
The second period ends here with the Leafs up 2-1, and two more promos for Law & Order Toronto.
Ilya Samsonov is put to work immediately in this period. The Kraken are only down one so they are leveraging their top line to get as much time out as possible and tie the game but the Leafs are keeping them at bay. Samsonov is helping out with some incredible saves. Is Sammy back? A question for you in the comments.
Meanwhile, Matthew Knies was laying out some big hits.
Five minutes left in the game and the Kraken are really controlling some of the play here. If had been playing like this the whole game it may have been 5-1 for them now. But the Leafs are holding on to this one goal lead by the skin of their teeth.
Three minutes left and the second line is out and Seattle wins the faceoff and Nylander quite accidentally ices the puck, so there's another faceoff and they hold off the Kraken again. The first line comes on and the Leafs keep up the pressure into the Kraken zone which stops them from pulling their goalie.
When the Kraken finally get Daccord out of the net, the puck comes back to the Leafs defence and Jake McCabe seals the win with 20 seconds left on the clock.
Leafs Win 3-1
The Western Road Trip is now over, and the Leafs get through it with two wins and two losses. It's not the best outcome, but certainly not the worst; four points out of eight, though all taken from teams outside the conference so not quite as helpful as right now to climb back up the standings in the East. Either way, wins are wins, right?
Here's the final even-strength only heat maps and game flows from Natural Stat Trick.
If you're a fan of late night games,there's two left on the calendar with 10:00 p.m. starts in both Vegas and Phoenix back-to-back after Family Day in late February. See you for another edition of PPP After Dark again then!
Next two Leafs games are the two games of the season against the Jets. Get your train tickets ready!
In the mean time, ZEBRA PARTY!!!!