Call it losing with style.
The Toronto Maple Leafs gave the Anaheim Ducks everything they could handle in an entertaining, wide-open game, but came up just one penalty kill short.
With just under seven minutes left in the third period, Zach Hyman took a needless roughing penalty, and the Ducks scored off a perfect set play to Cam Fowler, who wired a shot over Frederik Andersen’s shoulder. The power play lasted only three seconds.
Up until then, the Leafs had showed remarkable resilience, pressing a solid Anaheim team into give up a lot of good chances, and forcing John Gibson to be brilliant.
Auston Matthews was easily the Leafs’ best player on the evening, creating and getting several golden opportunities, including a beautiful one-hand, tip-in goal in the first period to open the scoring. All game, Matthews turned innocuous rushes into dangerous plays, and even got a chance to play with Marner late in the game as Mike Babcock looked for more offence.
Andersen, meanwhile, was brilliant in this one. The only goal he had even the faintest hope of saving was the third, and really, he made several excellent positional saves by reading the play well.
Obviously, not everything went well for the Leafs tonight, though.
The Ducks came into the game with the second-ranked power play unit, and although the Leafs killed off the first three, the Ducks cashed in on their last two.
With both Tyler Bozak and Ben Smith out of the lineup with injuries, William Nylander and Frederik Gauthier drew in at centre, and each rookie had a few tough moments on the ice.
Although Nylander had some great offensive chances against the Ducks, he also had a few defensive lapses, one of which lead to the Leafs’ second goal against. As Nylander began to carry the puck out of the zone, he attempted to carry the puck past Ondrej Kase, was stripped of the puck, and then missed tying up Nick Ritchie coming in as the late trailer. Oh well.
Gauthier, for his part, had his foot speed exposed, particularly late in his shifts, as he struggled to keep up defending players skating along the outside. Quick stops and starts give Gauthier fits.
Nazem Kadri scored a goal off of long, blind wrist shot from nearly the blue line, as it deflected off former Leaf blueliner Kolbinian Holzer. Until then, however, Kadri had been having a tough night, coughing up the puck for poor turnovers and missing a number of good passes, both attempted and as a receiver. After Kadri’s goal, he mustered several good chances, and was totally robbed by Gibson on the power play.
The Leafs are a lot of things this season, and fun is definitely one of them.