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After what feels like an eternity, the Toronto Maple Leafs played their second game of the 2023-24 NHL season tonight.
Coming off a 6-5 shootout win over the storied rival Montreal Canadiens that saw an Auston Matthews hat trick, as well as multiple bloopers that forced the Maple Leafs to constantly make comebacks to tie the game, we welcomed the oft-forgotten Minnesota Wild to Scotiabank Arena for the first Hockey Night in Canada game of the season.
Multiple early whistles slowed things down after an offside and icing within the first 12 seconds of the game.
After another couple face-offs [are the linesman being paid by the puck drop?] Max Domi almost scores with a flipper at the net, and Matthew Knies comes close to opening the score by bulldozing his way into the net, but he can't get it past Filip Gustavsson.
Mitch Marner almost scores in a backhand, then Tyler Bertuzzi is called for tripping after his reach for the puck gets caught in Brock Fabers skates. First power play goes to the guests.
The Wild get three shots on the powerplay, but it's not all offense. Gustavsson is forced to make a quick save himself when the Leafs penalty kill comes into the Wild end. No goal on the PP, back to five-on-five.
Ryan Reaves said he likes fighting his friends, and after a hit on Frederick Gaudreau he tangles with Marcus Foligno for this second fight in two games with the Maple Leafs.
The fight doesn't get the Leafs ready to go, but the Wild respond by scoring the first goal of the game. Kirill Kaprizov shoots and the pucks bounces off Matthews, off Ryan Hartman's skates and he gets credit as it goes into the net.
We come back from commercial post-goal and Auston Matthews gets his fourth goal in two games. Marner finds him skating through traffic and he sets it off with ease.
Another scrap, this time comes from Max Domi and Connor Dewar post-whistle. It's not officially a fight, just off setting roughing's.
Jon Merrill joins the parade to the penalty box after interfering with William Nylander. First Leafs power play.
Very quickly into the power play, Auston Matthews scores his second of the game! Will we get a single period hat trick?
At first, no, because credit for the goal goes to John Tavares, who was down in front of the net, being the perfect banking board, but replay shows the puck never touched him. It's all Auston. 2-1 Leafs.
Both teams are keeping their foot on the gas as the first period ticks down to zero. Back and forth up and down the ice, goalies having to make hard saves.
With 22 seconds left in the period, William Nylander takes a pass from Tavares at the blue line heading into the Wild zone, dispey-doodles around some players and easily pots the puck in the open side of the net.
3-1 Toronto to end the first period. Shorts are 13-12 Toronto.
The second opens up with more Leafs scoring! Tyler Bertuzzi gets a power play goal, his first as a Maple Leaf after Alex Goligoski is called for tripping.
4-1 Maple Leafs!
The celebration is short lived after Matt Boldy gets his first of the season to bring the lead back down to two.
After a while of back and forth hockey, the Wild get into the Leafs end, and the shots come at Samsonov, the puck bounces around, lots of traffic, and it all ends with Marco Rossi his first NHL goal, to cut the lead to one.
4-3 Maple Leafs at the halfway mark.
The game tightens up, with neither side giving in to the flashy offensive style we saw for the first half. More close up shots, a little more stick work and rougher play. Defense first. Don't let the game get tied, don't let the lead grow.
William Nylander tries to get another goal in under the wire, as the clock gets past the final minute of the second, he breaks in alone, but can't score. Then he comes in close, tries to go five hole, but didn't get it again and he becomes frustrated and swings the stick at the glass.
After two, it's 4-3 Toronto, shots are 21-20 Minnesota.
Calle Järnkrok has now replaced Max Domi on line two to start the third.
The Wild make Samsonov work for the saves and after a dive or two he finally gets a handle on the puck, and everyone starts hugging afterwards. I mean scrapping, brawling, tough guy stuff. (They were hugs)
Auston Matthews wants to start the year with back to back hat tricks. I believe he can do it.
Alex Goligoski is called again, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct. Another Maple Leafs power play.
One timers, close shots, nice passing, all the hallmarks of the good powerplay come out, but they can't get it past Gustavsson, and the power play ends with the Leafs still up by one.
Who needs an advantage though, when you have solid passing, skating, playmaking. Calle Järnkrok scores his first of the season to get the lead back to two.
5-3 Maple Leafs with 10 minutes to go.
An overall great play by the Leafs in the offensive zone. Morgan Rielly with the pass, Järnkrok with the shot, everyone in position.
Then, before the announcer is done announcing the goal, Auston Matthews gets his third and has back to back hat tricks to open the season!
6-3 Maple Leafs!
William Nylander remembers being denied twice to end the second period, and easily snipes one into the net from the face off circle.
7-3 Maple Leafs!
The Leafs are so busy trying to score goals, they just shoot at anything. Sorry Pat.
The Leafs work hard for their goals. The Wild have been getting....flukes, deflections, and another one, so it's 7-4 now.
But that is all they wrote, so the Leafs win their second game of the season and have scored 12 goals in those two games. Nine have come from Matthews and Nylander. Step up everyone.
It wasn't perfect, but my goodness what a third period! Auston Matthews is on a mission this season to prove he's one of the elite players in the league. William Nylander wants to score so much he adds a zero to his new contract. Defensively? Well they can outscore their problems.
The Maple Leafs next game is Monday night at home against the Chicago Bedards. Broadcast is on Sportsnet & TVA Sports.
- Auston Matthews tied Mats Sundin for most multi-goal games as a Maple Leaf with 61. He is four away from taking third from Rick Vaive (64)
- Auston Matthews is the first Leaf to score 5+ goals in his first two games since Wendel Clark did it in the 91/92 season
- Auston Matthews is the five player in NHL history to score hat tricks in the first two games of the season joining Alex Ovechkin (2017-18), Cy Denneny (1917-18), Joe Malone (1917-18) and Reg Noble (1917-18)
- The Maple Leafs will no longer use "Pursuit of Happiness" as their goal song after game one, received many complaints about the themes/lyrics
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