By Stan Smith
Regardless of the outcome, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 4-3 overtime loss in Tampa Bay to the Lightning was an exciting game and felt a lot like their playoff series last season. Unfortunately, the game’s outcome was also similar to that playoff series.
The loss ended two streaks for the Maple Leafs. It marked the end of their five-game winning streak as well as their six-game road winning streak. However, tying the game at 3-3 and taking it to overtime kept another streak alive. The Maple Leafs have now gone eleven games in a row without losing in regulation. Even more impressive is they have only lost once in regulation since October 29th, a stretch of 17 games.
Mitch Marner scored a shorthanded goal in the second period to put the Maple Leafs up 1-0 and extend his point streak to a franchise record 19 games. He added a power-play goal in the third period to tie the game at three and send it into overtime. In the 105-year history of the NHL, there have only been 30 different point streaks that were longer than 19 games.
Marner also has a new streak going. He has now scored goals in five consecutive games. That’s three games short of his longest goal streak of eight games. On the season, Marner has 10 goals and 21 assists for a total of 31 points. He’s currently tied for 11th in NHL scoring.
William Nylander showed a lot of patience as he waited for Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to go down before depositing his team-leading 14th goal of the season into the net to put the Maple Leafs up 2-1 late in the second period. That goal tied Nylander for ninth place in NHL goal scoring along with Mikko Rantanen and former Maple Leafs’ prospect Carter Verhaeghe.
Michael Bunting did some nice work behind the Tampa Bay net to win a puck battle which led to Nylander’s goal. After scoring just six points in his first sixteen games to start the season, Bunting has now scored ten points in his last ten games.
The Maple Leafs are definitely getting their $800,000 worth out of Mark Giordano. He was outstanding in this game. Giordano played just over 25 minutes for the first time this season. He was plus two in the game. According to Naturalstattrick.com, Giordano led the team in on-ice Expected Goals (75.5%) and Shots (72.7%). He was also on the ice for six High-Danger Scoring Chances For and only one Against at five-on-five.
To be honest Matt Murray did not play that badly in this game. But, by the standard he’s set in all but his first game of the season, this was not a great game for Murray. He did make some excellent saves in the game but the goal in overtime is one that Murray has to have. Overall in the game, Murray gave up four goals on 33 shots for a .879 Save Percentage.
That goal ended a four-game winning streak for Murray. In the eight starts Murray has had this season, he only has one loss in regulation. That was his first start in Montreal, which was a 4-3 loss to the Canadiens. Murray’s record for the season now stands at 5-1-2 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average.
The overtime loss is the sixth in a row for the Maple Leafs. The only overtime victory the team has this season was the first game they played that went into overtime. Nick Robertson scored the game-winner in a 3-2 win over their competition in their next game the Dallas Stars.
This is kind of a good-news, bad-news scenario. The good news is that each of the seven games they have taken to overtime is an extra crucial point in the standings. The bad news is that in losing six of those games they have left six extra points on the table.
All we can do is hope the Maple Leafs can keep taking games that might have otherwise been losses in regulation into overtime. Sooner or later this streak will end and their record in overtime will even itself out at some point.
The refereeing in this game was atrocious. There were 14 penalties called in this game. Sheldon Keefe mentioned the fact that this game was called a lot closer than the games the Maple Leafs had played of late. A lot of what the referees called in the game was borderline at best. Based on the level of the calls they made, I would have to estimate the referees missed another 20 to 25 calls.
My biggest complaint has to do with comparing interference calls. If what Wayne Simmonds did on Zach Bogosian at 4:52 of the second period and what Timothy Liljegren did against Nikita Kucherov at 2:51 of the third period was interference, then how is Anthony Cirelli knocking Auston Mathews down, preventing Matthews from playing the puck on Tampa’s first goal, not interference as well?
The Maple Leafs travel to Dallas to take on the Stars on Tuesday night. They then return home for a three-game stretch starting with a game versus the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday followed by a Saturday night tilt against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
What I Would Like to See
Mac Hollowell has played extremely well since he has called up from the Marlies. However, the Lightning game might have been his worst game of the six he has played. Hollowell only played 10:10 in the game. As a result, Justin Holl was forced to play close to 26 minutes and Giordano just over 25 minutes.
Although TJ Brodie is travelling with the team, he is not expected to be ready to play in Dallas. If that is the case, I would like to see Conor Timmins replace Hollowell in the lineup.