It's a huge turnaround for the Leafs after a string of losses and a big time goalie blowup that saw Ilya Samsonov demoted to the Marlies, second backup goalie Martin Jones led the team to a huge win against the Kings, who are the only one of the three California teams that are contenders. This could not have gone better for the Leafs.
It's really late! I have the heat on, but the Leafs are in L.A. where it was a balmy 20°C today (yesterday?). Tonight they are wearing the Bieber jerseys, and the Kings are wearing their chrome helmets.
The Kings have Cam Talbot in net who is shockingly not only their starter, but actually having a very good season. It's the latest game start-time in ET of the whole season!
After a brief start where the Kings held a lot of possession, the Leafs came back with multiple good shifts, especially by the Matthews line who had really good looks on Talbot twice.
The Leafs' control of the game was so good even the fourth line was able to make offensive plays in the o-zone before the Kings could get the puck out. However, Talbot is standing as a wall through the first ten minutes.
This continued through the second half of the period until Max Domi goes to the box for a questionable "cross-check" and the Kings get a power play.
The PK went to work well and the Kings are held at bay quite effectively, only getting setup to cycle and shoot at the Leafs net for a few seconds. Martin Jones even stopped the obligatory ex-Leaf goal!
Then the Leafs got a turn with a power play of their own but the Kings penalty kill stopped them, despite one more chance with the Leafs. I have to say for a period with no goals, this was very entertaining fast-paced hockey, at least for Leafs fans.
The Kings came out and immediately got a great chance after Simon Benoit gets outmanoeuvred, but Jones stops the shot.
The Leafs go back the other way with a two on one but this gets shot by Bertuzzi which is a miss. There's a little more back and forth here but then everything is happening! First, Willy Nylander scores and I am relieved this will not a repeat of that 2020 game against the Kings I recapped which had no goals at all right through to the shootout which went like 50 rounds and ended at about 2:00 a.m.. Anyway, here's Willy:
Then we have Auston Matthews get hit and all hell breaks loose.
The Leafs get a power play out of all this and our beloved crocodile man scores to put the Leafs up 2-0.
The Leafs close out the period with only a few more fireworks.
But then Bertuzzi takes a tripping penalty to give the Kings power play another chance and this time they get their group cycle and shoot setup right away. But Martin Jones stops the barrage over and over.
And the second period ends at 12:13 a.m. ET. One more to go! The Leafs look absolutely great here so far. Though Bertuzzi's tape job is questionable.
A few minutes in, and the momentum looks to be swinging toward the Kings, but this is probably in part score related with the Leafs opting to focus on protecting their 2-0 lead, but then the puck goes in the Leafs net... but will it count?
No. Interference was called immediately.
And then we have fisticuffs... OK I skipped over a lot there, but it's now 1:00 a.m. ET and I'm fading in and out, though this Benoit's gross hand caught my eye after his fight.
The Kings are coming on furiously with five minutes left in the game and they finally appear to have the Leafs on the backfoot but they still can't get much on net, and what they do is blocked or deflected. Then they take a dumb penalty and gift the Leafs a power play in the dying minutes of the game, but then the Leafs take a penalty and too and so the Kings pull their goalie to get a five on four.
Thankfully, this goes in the Leafs favour and Willy gets his second goal of the game on the empty net.
Game over. Leafs win 3-0!
Post-Game and Ephemera
Here's the final game shot heat map, even strength only, from Natural Stat Trick:
The Leafs actually look to have had their shots more spread out than we're used to.
The xG flow chart that shows the score effects in the third period:
As for the ephemera: Bertuzzi's preferred stick-knob tape is... interesting.
And this guy in the Kings penalty box, who I think is probably part of the broadcast staff and maybe the TV timeout coordinator.
Next Game is Tomorrow/Today!
The Leafs play again tomorrow night! Yes, it's another late game, but not quite as late with a 9:00 p.m. ET start time against the Anaheim Ducks. Of course, the question everyone wants to know is who will start in net? Do you go with the hot hand and have Jones play again, or do you put Dennis Hildeby in, called-up unexpectedly to play in his first ever NHL game?
In the meantime, it's now 1:20 a.m. here. Time for a late night GIF party!