The Maple Leafs travelled to Detroit to take on Dylan Larkin and the Red Wings tonight, and this matchup sure looked lopsided on paper. Toronto came into this game having scored seven goals in each of their past two games, and the Red Wings simply don’t have a ton of talent on the back-end to matchup against this high-powered offence.
Tonight’s lineup featured Martin Marincin instead of Igor Ozhiganov, while Frederik Gauthier remained in the lineup over Andreas Johnsson. Meanwhile, early season standout Dennis Cholowski was out of Detroit’s lineup due to an upper body injury.
Jake Gardiner set up Auston Matthews off the opening faceoff, and Toronto’s leading scorer fired a hard wrist shot on the resulting two-on-one. After Howard made the stop, Gardiner accidentally set up Larkin in the slot just seconds later, and while this game remained scoreless, we quickly got the feeling that this would be a high-scoring affair.
Nazem Kadri took an undisciplined slashing penalty five minutes in, as he retaliated after a big hit from Tyler Bertuzzi. Not long after the power play expired, Martin Marincin pinched, John Tavares failed to cover from him, and Darren Helm streaked in on a three-on-one. He would slide the puck over to Nick Jensen, who made no mistake by firing a wrist shot past a sprawling Frederik Andersen.
Kapanen tried to respond quickly, as he broke in on a partial breakaway, and drew a penalty in the process. However, the Leafs got nothing going on this man advantage, and it looked like Detroit decided to give the four forwards minimal space, instead of placing any sort of focus on Morgan Rielly. Josh Leivo fought Danny DeKeyser ten seconds after the power play came to an end, which is a trade that Mike Babcock will take any day.
Just when this game started to get a little bit boring, Tavares made a clever pass to spring Marner on a two-on-one with Zach Hyman. Rather than dishing it off to Hyman, Marner looked back to find a streaking Morgan Rielly, who one-timed the puck past Howard.
Rielly took the NHL’s scoring lead with this goal, and tied the game in the process. He nearly gave the lead right back to Detroit, as he let the puck get by him at the offensive blueline, and the Wings broke in on an odd-man rush. Auston Matthews was a mile out of the play, but Andersen bailed out his team’s top two scorers by robbing Athanasiou with a terrific pad save.
Toronto 1, Detroit 1 after one. The shots were 11-6 in favour of Toronto. However, shot attempts were roughly even, and the Leafs didn’t really outplay the Red Wings in this period. The Marincin-Dermott pairing was off to a bit of a rough start, while Gauthier did not look like a NHL player.
The second period started off with plenty of excitement, as Rielly went for a skate in the offensive zone, flew around the net, and found Matthews in front. He nearly tipped the puck past Howard, but was ultimately stopped on this high-danger scoring chance. One minute later, Marner just missed Hyman on what would have been a tap-in goal. The two quickly changed places, with Hyman sending a quick pass over to Marner, who made no mistake by cashing in on a wide open net.
Leivo and Ennis followed with a strong shift, and the Leafs were really starting to tilt the ice in their favour. Par Lindholm drew a penalty six minutes in, and Toronto’s second power play went far better than their first. Everyone on the ice for the Leafs touched the puck, as Toronto’s impressive puck movement set up Matthews with time and space. He unleashed his patented wrist shot past Howard, and the Leafs quickly had a two goal lead.
Rielly picked up an assist on the play, and he’s off to quite the start:
Morgan Rielly has 12 points in the first five games of the season.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 12, 2018
That's only happened 23 times in the last 30 years in the NHL. Never by a defenceman. (Only four times by anyone since 1995.)
Matthews took a “holding” penalty a couple of shifts later, but this was a phantom call, and I assume the real penalty was for not being a mere mortal. Detroit failed to score on this, and Marner even generated a decent scoring chance in its final seconds. The game slowed down a bit as the period wore on, until Kadri hit the crossbar with just under four minutes left, and the Libor Sulak took a penalty on the play. While Tavares and Kadri both came awfully close to scoring on the man advantage, this game remained 3-1 heading into the second intermission.
Toronto 3, Detroit 1 after two. Shots were 15-5 for the Leafs in this period, and 26-11 overall. This period was simply dominated by the Leafs.
Detroit dominated this game in the early third, but simply could not find the back of the net in the first five minutes. Athanasiou broke in past Gardiner and hit the side of the net after making his move on Andersen. Vanek broke in past the Dermott-Marincin pair just minutes later, but his shot hit the post. The puck rebounded onto the stick of Larkin, who proceeded to hit the same post. The Leafs held onto their 3-1 lead heading into the period’s first commercial break, but they sure were lucky to do so.
Toronto came back to life once play resumed, with Tavares generating a nice scoring chance in the slot courtesy of Marner. Unfortunately, noted Leafs killer Nick Jensen capitalized on a scramble in front to score his second of the game halfway through the period.
Jensen had gone 87 games without a goal before scoring twice tonight. His last goal was on April 1, 2017 against Toronto. #RedWings— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) October 12, 2018
The Red Wings were within one for about a minute, then DeKeyser thought it would be fun to watch the Leafs power play go to work. It took ten seconds for Matthews to score his second of the night, and his ninth of the season.
4-2 with nine minutes remaining.
Hainsey returned the favour by immediately taking a penalty of his own, and Larkin’s point shot snuck past Andersen, and it was ruled that the puck crossed the line after a video review. While this was technically not a power play goal, Hainsey was not yet back into the play.
4-3 Toronto with six minutes remaining.
Marincin and Abdelkader soon took offsetting roughing penalties, setting up some eventful four-on-four action. Detroit continued to press in the final minutes, but Andersen was up to the test time-after-time-after-time. Hainsey, who did not play well in the final minute, rimmed the puck around the boards and it somehow travelled all the way down the ice into the back of the net.
Leafs win 5-3.
- Jensen (1) from Helm and Ehn
- Rielly (3) from Marner and Tavares
- Marner (3) from Hyman and Tavares
- Matthews (8) from Rielly and Kadri
- Jensen (2) from Glendening and Mantha
- Matthews (9) from Tavares and Marner
- Larkin (2) from Bertuzzi and Hronek
- Hainsey (2) from Tavares and Zaitsev
The 4-1 Leafs will now head to Washington to take on the Capitals on Saturday. This team sure is fun to watch.