Ahead of tonight's game the Toronto Maple Leafs honoured former Captain Dion Phaneuf, who announced his retirement today.

The Predators come out hard once the puck is dropped, with former Niagara IceDog Philip Tomasino coming close to opening the scoring in the first minute.

Both teams get a couple shots on net in the first five minutes, nothing else as close as that first shot, but Pierre Engvall continues shooting at the wrong net - he misses Juuse Saros and seems to be aiming for the netting above the glass.

The Maple Leafs get a powerplay when Ryan Johansen gets called for cross checking Travis Dermott.

The powerplay does well, setting up passes, shots, and staying in the zone. It’s only one minute of extra man time when William Nylander at the point finds room to shoot a laser pass at Auston Matthews who scores on an angle to make mit 1-0 Maple Leafs.

Right after the face off, Pierre Engvall come close to scoring once again. Close. Things are a lot more Leafs oriented once they take the lead. Almost five minutes of controlling the puck, a few more shots, and lots of o-zone time.

Things are going Toronto’s way tonight as Philip Tomasino is called for hooking David Kämpf. The Predators penalty kill works a little hard this time, taking away more shooting lanes, forcing the puck out of their zone, but the Leafs still manage a couple shots, some nice passing and great positioning. Sadly that hard work doesn’t pay off and we don’t get a second power play goal.

Juuse Saros makes an amazing save on Auston Matthews, then Nick Ritchie got a bit too close to Saros for Michael McCarron’s sake and the two traded punches for a bit.

The Predators pick it up a bit, getting a few more chances - including a three on one that ends with a botched pass - after this, but no one’s slowing down at all. It’s a very frantic, back and forth end to the first period.

Once again the period starts with a hot shift from Nashville, anda “PING!” off the post, this time courtesy of Matt Duchene. Then, Nick Ritchie gets called for slashing on his first post-fight shift. The Leafs need to tighten things up to avoid losing the one goal lead.

The Predators power play isn’t as well organized as the Leafs, the Leafs even get a short handed shot off, but they do come close to scoring when Roman Josi tries to get one in from right in from of Jack Campbell, but the “SOUUUUUUUP” cheer starts right up as the save is made. No goal on this power play, still 1-0 Leafs.

The Maple Leafs crash the Predators net, and both Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews think the puck goes in, but on review it spins a bit ON the goal line but never crosses it.

The Leafs continue working to get that second goal, Matthews, Marner, Engvall, all come close but Saros is having a heck of a game - as most goalies do against Toronto.

The Predators finally get the puck, rush into the Leafs end, but Jack Campbell makes the save, grabs the rebound as Justin Holl jumps on top of him, and it’s a close one but Nashville doesn’t get the goal. We get a review of the play, but by the time the whistle blows it’s a pile of blue bodies in the net and we don’t see it cross the blue line. Not a bad defensive strategy.

As the second goes on, things slow down a little with both teams taking their time trying to get one in the net. It’s more of ma game of takeaways and hits now, with fewer rushes and chances that get the crowd on its feet. After a run in with Michael Bunting, Luke Kunin gets called for interference, putting the Leafs on their third power play of the game.

The powerplay isn’t as dominant as it was way back in the first period, with the Predators (legally) icing the puck more, and shots coming few and far between. No goal once again, putting the Leafs at 1/3 tonight.

The second period ends 1-0 for Toronto who are also leading 25-16 in shots.

Surprisingly, the third period does NOT begin with the Predators almost scoring a goal. The Leafs get a shot off, but it’s nothing earth shattering. They do trap Nashville in their own end for a couple of minutes, and as soon as Nashville kicks them out they’re right back in.

There’s not a lot of action in the beginning of the third, Nashville gets one chance that goes off the post, but it’s slow going. Wayne Simmonds and Mark Borowiecki come close to throwing down but the refs stop it and give both matching roughing penalties. The four on four face off sees the Leafs winning and William Nylander getting a break away against Saros but he shoots wide and wastes the chance.

The game is played safe midway through the third, rather than fast and loose as it started. The Leafs want to protect their one goal lead, the Predators want to prevent them from making it two.

It’s not all safe, as Philip Tomasino gets his second penalty of the game, with a trip on Travis Dermott. Mitch Marner gets a great chance midway through the power play, but Saros once again makes the save. The Leafs once again can’t score with the man advantage. Still 1-0 Leafs with 4 min to go.

However, they can score at five on five when Ondřej Kaše spins around in the Predators zone and sends a perfect pass to David Kämpf who scores to double the Leafs lead to 2-0.

Nashville pulls Saros with 2:30 left, and even on an empty net Pierre Engvall shoots wide. The Predators play it safe in the Leafs end, lots o nice wide passes around the perimeter before they take a chance at losing possession. Ondřej Kaše slides down the ice to block a Roman Josi shot with his shin, he winces and heads back to the bench. Nashville takes a time out, but all that does is give Mitch Marner a breather, and the energy to fight through three Predators on his way to scoring an empty net goal to make it 3-0, and seal the victory.

This is a better win than the last one in Buffalo, and the game had pretty much everything you’d want. Big saves, big shots, a couple fights(ish), and most importantly, a Leafs win.

The Maple Leafs next game is Thursday night, at home against the New York Rangers.

Game notes:

  • It has been 613 days since these two teams played. Leafs vs Predators was one of the very first games cancelled by the NHL on March 12, 2020.
  • Auston Matthews tied Ted Kennedy for 14th all time in Maple Leafs power play goals at 51.
  • Nick Ritchie was benched for about half the second period after his bad penalty.
  • The posts are the second star of this game. Bailed the Leafs out quite a bit.
  • Tonight was Jack Campbell’s 100th NHL game, and 7th career shutout.
  • This is the Maple Leafs fourth straight win, and they have won nine of their ten previous games./