The Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Red Wings for the final home game of the pre-season tonight. It was a big test for the few non-roster players on the ice. There weren't a lot out there, just Matt Knies and Fraser Minten, who made up the third line with Calle Järnkrok.
The Red Wings gave the Leafs an early chance to work on their power play when Dominik Shine was called for slashing in front of the Detroit net.
The refs are on top of make up calls early, when Auston Matthews is called for goalie interference five seconds into the power play. I mean, it was was probably a good call, but I'm biased.
We get some sweet, sweet, Nylander-Marner action as they easily out play the Red Wings defenders and Alex Lyon in net, and Nylander gets an easy one.
1-0 Maple Leafs.
Argh. After the four on four ends, The Red Wings have the puck at the Leafs blueline, and Shayne Gostisbehere takes a shot from the line and it gets tipped in by a passing Nate Danielson, and the game gets tied.
This game is much more professional than the Leafs/Habs I watched last week. Neither team is dominating, much more back and forth with the puck, but still lots of players falling down. Which I appreciate, I love hockey players falling down. The higher the skill the better.
It is still pre-season, so the players are going to try things that could be riskier when points are on the line. Matthews and Marner try out a "hey just football the puck down the ice to me" play.
Simone Benoit is called for interference behind the play, tangling up with Elmer Soderblom behind the net.
This power play is also seconds long like the last, but it ended with a goal instead of another penalty. Jonathan Berggren scores from below the faceoff circle to Samsonov's right.
Detroit comes in hard on Samsonov and he scrambles to make the save, but the net is left wide open. The Leafs come together to protect the puck and net, and teamwork keeps the Red Wings from scoring.
William Nylander gets checked into the boards but he's able to get the puck to Tavares who carriers it into the Red Wings zone, he fumbles a bit trying to back pass to Max Domi, but is tripped up so he can't complete the play.
Revenge will happen, when Elmer Soderblom is called for tripping.
The powerplay is clicking, the puck is moving fast and furious, but shots are getting blocked, saved, and missing the net.
The Leafs get some five on three for 30 seconds, Marco Kasper high-sticks Tyler Bertuzzi, and while they don't score there, with one second left in the period and just after the five on three ends, John Tavares passes to Mitch Marner who whips a one timer pass to Auston Matthews and he ties the game.
After one it's tied at twos, and no one is looking particularly out of place on the ice tonight. We may need some line tweaking, but I think these guys are essentially ready.
It's a good start to the second, the Leafs are up 16-10 in shots, we're getting some good plays from both teams, nothing out of your seat exciting, just solid hockey.
Also, some solid shots to the back by TJ Brodie, and he gets called for cross-checking five minutes in.
The Red Wings penalty kill is getting plenty of time to pass, but that's all they can do as the Leafs have collapsed into the centre of their zone, denying any quality shot attempts by Detroit. The Leafs get one good short handed chance at the end of the penalty, but it's deflected by Lyon.
Tyler Bertuzzi gets a loose puck just outside the Red Wings end as two of the opponents fumble with it, and he skates in by himself and goes top shelf to get the lead back for Toronto.
3-2 Toronto at the halfway point.
More cross-checking! This time it's Samuel Benoit, so another chance to test the power play and penalty kills. Another amazing chance at a shorthanded goal, but it went wide.
Joe Veleno ends the power play with 45 seconds left after he gets called for holding Timothy Liljegren. The four on four ends, and the Leafs get a minute of power play time, but they don't score.
Ryan Reaves continues to impress me this pre-season, he's in the Red Wings zone and doing an excellent job of board play, keeping the puck from being dumped out, and holding the Red Wings players without getting a penalty.
There's a scramble at the Leafs net, Samsonov can't get the glove on it to kill the play, but the Leafs are able to fish the loose puck out of the pile and get it to the boards. However, in that bit of a mess Simon Benoit gets called for tripping and has a hat trick of minors tonight.
The Red Wings powerplay can't keep up with the Leafs penalty kill. The Leafs have been able to keep their zone mostly clear on this one, and then Auston Matthews almost scores on a wrap around, and I don't think the shorthanded team should be able to get a wrap around chance.
Shockingly, no power play goal happens.
Then a even strength one does. Samsonov comes out of the net to play the puck behind it, and his clear attempt gets caught and Dominik Shine scores in the empty net at Sammy dives across the crease.
Tie game at threes to end the second.
Matthew Knies and Fraser Minten work so well together it's tempting to try and keep them together for opening night, but money gets in the way.
The top line is ready to go as Marner and Matthews are clicking like it's game 50. Some great passing and almost goals from them, but they can't break the tie.
Detroit gets a nice two on one that has Sammy reaching again, thankfully the shot goes wide, and no Red Wings goal.
The Leafs are spending plenty of time in the offensive zone, but everything is blocked, saved, missed, but they are doing everything they can to score the winning goal.
Alex Lyon is getting tested with shots from up close, from the blue line, the Leafs are connecting passes and it is beautiful. Hopefully this standard of play continues all the way through June.
Hats off to the Red Wings who are trapped in their own end, but doing the little things they can to hold the tie. The puck finally gets loose and both teams change lines, and now the Red Wings are taking long slow passes and skates to slow down the Leafs offense.
With just over five minutes left, Simon Edvinsson high sticks Bertuzzi in the side of the head, so we get more power play time for the Leafs.
The Red Wings clear right away, but the Leafs come in hard and Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Rielly, Nylander, all play keep away with the puck while setting up nice chances, but no power play goal this time.
We need to tie Samsonovs stick to his hands with a bungee cord or something.
Despite the Leafs best efforts, there were no third period goals and we're off to overtime.
The first minute of overtime is blah, no fun, not what we want from three on three.
Too much time spent in the Leafs zone when we change lines, but putting Matthews and Nylander on the ice together gets us the game winner, nice and easy.
The Maple Leafs win this one 4-3, and we are one week from the regular season beginning. There is one more game left, Saturday night at 7PM in Detroit, and then Wednesday night is the big one. Game one against the Montreal Canadiens.
Enjoy your night everyone, and Go Leafs Go!