The Leafs matched the Avalanche pound for pound in a wild game full of twists and turns, but they fell just shy of a much-needed two points, falling 4-3 in the shootout to Colorado.
It was an entertaining game, and the action started early. In case you missed it, just a few hours before puck drop it was announced that Carter Ashton had been suspended 20 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Then as warm-ups began, it was discovered that Morgan Rielly would be a healthy scratch in place of Stuart Percy.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Avalanche scored 31 seconds into the game on a broken play full of missed assignments. Nick Holden got the goal on a quick dish from Nathan MacKinnon.
And just 14 seconds later, things got even worse. On a harmless looking neutral zone hit by Jan Hejda, Daniel Winnik fell awkwardly on his back and had to be stretchered off. Winnik wouldn’t return, but didn’t have to be taken to hospital and was able to walk around and move all of his extremities behind closed doors. In fact, it sounds like he won’t miss any time as Randy Carlyle says he is “100% fine”.
Midway through the period things got even worse as Jake Gardiner left the game after blocking a shot to his knee. He too would not return and his status for the future is unclear.
The good news though is that Phil Kessel bunted a puck into the net with 4 minutes to go in the period, and the Leafs came out of the first tied at 1. They looked terrible in the first half of the period running around their own zone with zero purpose but were equally good in the second half of it.
In the second and third periods it was much of the same. It seemed like in the first half of the period the Avs would dominate, and in the second half of the period the Leafs would take their turn. It was an entertaining game to watch as you might expect, with both teams preferring to generate their offense off the rush. It helps that neither team is very good defensively.
In the second period the Leafs were able to take the lead on a nice little feed from James van Riemsdyk to Tyler Bozak on the powerplay, but Alex Tanguay quickly answered back with a breakaway goal (Percy and Roman Polak were the culprits on that one).
In the third the game looked like it was in doubt when Matt Duchene capitalized on a sloppy exchange by Nazem Kadri and Percy, but the Leafs were able to scratch their way back. With just 76 seconds left in the game and the net empty, Mike Santorelli found Richard Panik in the slot who got a quick shot off to tie it up. Off to overtime we go.
In the extra frame both teams got their fair share of chances once more, with plenty of the extra hockey played at 3-on-3. It solved nothing though, and off to the shootout this one went.
Unfortunately, the Leafs were just on the wrong end of it. Tyler Bozak scored for the Leafs, but Colorado scored on all three of their chances and took the two points just like that. Although it was a sloppy game from the Leafs, the Avs were equally care-free and it was actually a very evenly played game. It could have gone either way, but the Leafs just got the short end of the stick.
A timely goal, a team-high 75 CF%, and an assist to boot, Richard Panik is tonight’s Blue Warrior.
- Tonight was a good night for plenty of Leafs. Here’s who stood out to me: Kessel, van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Kadri, Polak, Panik, Dion Phaneuf, Peter Holland, and Jonathan Bernier.
- 5v5 Corsi numbers tonight: Toronto 51.08 CF%, Colorado 48.02 CF%.
- They will likely call up a forward either way with Carter Ashton out, but it’ll also be interesting to see if Gardiner misses any time and if the Leafs call up a defenseman. A couple names I’ll throw out there as potential call-ups are Josh Leivo and Viktor Loov.
SEE YOU SATURDAY
The Leafs return home Saturday to face the New York Rangers at 7PM Eastern on CBC.