The following question has often been posed this season: Would the Marlies beat the Leafs? Well, we’ll likely never find that one out, but in the first big-league opportunity of a few of the team’s brightest young stars, they weren’t able to beat another NHL team as the Leafs fell 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It wasn’t an overly exciting contest once it was all said and done, but the debut of six new Leafs in one game is always exciting.
Tyler Johnson came to play in this one. One of the league’s top scorers a year ago with 72 points in 77 games, Johnson’s put up just 25 points in 49 games this year entering tonight. However, he found his time to contribute to the Lightning’s success, scoring the game’s first two goals in the second period.
Despite so many debuts, the Leafs’ only offensive contributions end up coming from a trio of core players: a late Nazem Kadri goal assisted by Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner on the power play with 2:15 left in the third.
Connor Carrick had a fight in his first game with the Leafs, facing off against JT Brown.
Tampa started to pull away towards the end of the first period, but became relatively stagnant in the remaining part of the game once Johnson netted his second goal. Toronto threw everything it could including the kitchen sink as it tried to mount a comeback, but ultimately only came out of the contest with one goal. Kasperi Kapanen led the Leafs forwards not named Brad Boyes with a 74.0 Corsi % 5v5, while putting three shots on net. William Nylander managed two shots in his debut, while Nikita Soshnikov had three as well. There was no heavy sheltering of minutes as each Leafs forward played at least 12 minutes each, and while no one looked out of place, there wasn’t any fairy tale narratives to come out of the end of this one.
Garret Sparks stopped 24 of 24 shots by players not named Tyler Johnson and looked every bit the part of NHL goaltender on the night.
The Leafs take on Daniel Winnik and the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night in DC at 7 p.m.