The Toronto Maple Leafs let one get away from them on Saturday night in Carolina. Despite playing one of their best games this season statistically, they were on the short end of a 5-3 score.
The game started badly for the Maple Leafs. Before they could get through one shift rotation they were down two men. Jake McCabe took a high-sticking penalty trying to knock the puck out of the air with his stick. However, he made contact with Martin Necas’ face instead.
Then, while killing the penalty Noel Acciari gets called for what seemed like a chintzy hooking penalty on Sebastian Aho. (Note: The same thing happened the other way early in the second period. With Brent Pesce in the box for a puck over the glass, Brady Skjei got his stick into the hands of Mitch Marner. This time there was no call.)
The Hurricanes scored on the 5-on-3 and then scored again off of the momentum following the power play.
Eleven minutes into the game the shots were 15-5 Carolina and the score was 2-0.
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While I can’t say any of the four goals Carolina scored were the type of goals that Matt Murray should have stopped, I do think some of them could have been stopped. I don’t know if you can ever blame a goalie for allowing a 5-on-3 goal. However, Brent Burns shot on the first goal was a stoppable shot.
The 4-3 goal we will get to later.
This is now the seventh game in eight starts that Murray has allowed four goals. Whether you want to blame Murray for them or the team in front of him, a team needs synergy between its skaters and its goalie. The Maple Leafs don’t seem to be getting that of late when Murray is in the net.
Pyotr Kochetkov was bad news for the Maple Leafs in this game. He was the best player on the ice on either team. This was the classical case of a goalie stealing a win. Not only did he stop 41 shots in this game; but, the vast majority of saves he made were high-quality saves.
How good was he? Continue reading.
The Maple Leafs might have played their longest stretch of dominant hockey in this game. With 8:24 left in the first period, the shots were 16-6 Carolina. It wasn’t until the 7:15 mark of the second period that Carolina got their 17th shot on the net. By that time the Maple Leafs had 23 shots. In that span of 15:39, the Maple Leafs outshot the Hurricanes 17-0.
After the game, Sheldon Keefe stated he thought this game may have been their best game of the season. A look at the High-Danger Scoring Chances as tracked by Naturalstattrick.com appears to back that statement up.
According to them the High-Dangers Scoring Chances in All Situations (and this is no typo) were 33-9 Toronto. There are many games where a team doesn’t get 33 shots on the net, or 33 Scoring Chances, let alone 33 High-Danger Chances.
Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 5-3 Loss to Hurricanes
The most dominant skater in this game was Auston Matthews. For the second game in a row, Matthews scored two goals. If not for Kochetkov, he could have had a lot more.
Matthews had 15 shots on the net in the game. According to Naturalstattrick.com, Matthews had 14 High-Danger Scoring Chances. That was five more High Danger Scoring Chances than the entire Carolina team.
Matthews and the Maple Leafs did have some good luck on his second goal. As Matthews is scoring the goal the referee whistles the play dead because he lost sight of the puck.
For as long as I have watched the game that has meant “no goal.” But, in 2014, the NHL modified the rule allowing for a video review of the play and some discretion in allowing or disallowing goals in those situations.
The rule states:
Rule 38.4 (viii) has been modified to allow broader discretion to Hockey Operations to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g., to ensure they are “good hockey goals”). The revised Rule will allow Hockey Operations to correct a broader array of situations where video review establishes that a “goal” or “no goal” call on the ice has been made in error. The new expanded rule will also allow Hockey Operations to provide guidance to referees on goal and potential goal plays where the referee has blown his whistle (or intended to blow his whistle) after having lost sight of the puck.
In this case, it was decided the goal would count. I have seen many cases where they have ultimately ruled “no goal” in these same situations. As a Maple Leafs’ fan, I am happy they ruled in their favour. I do know I would not have been a happy camper if a similar goal were scored against the Maple Leafs.
But, it is all good. The game is now tied with less than three minutes to go in regulation.
The Ugly part of this game was that after battling back to tie the game at two, giving up a goal to go down 3-2, and then tying the game with less than three minutes to go in the third period, the Maple Leafs gave up the winning goal 32 seconds later.
On the goal, after John Tavares loses a draw in the Carolina zone. Jacob Slavin flips the puck down into the Maple Leafs’ end. Timothy Liljegren fails to knock the puck out of the zone with his hand, and Tavares loses a battle with Jordan Martinook also failing to get the puck out of the zone.
The most significant error was by Morgan Rielly, who allows Aho a clear lane to the net. Aho scores on a rebound from a Slavin shot from the point. William Nylander and Michael Bunting also got mixed up on the play and ended up on each other’s side of the ice. That might have prevented one of them from covering Slavin at the point.
Needless to say, after all the work by the Maple Leafs to come back and gain the tie, it all went away half a minute later by some sloppy play in their own end.
After failing to gain ground on Tampa Bay last night, the Maple Leafs get another chance tonight when they use up one of their games in hand over the Lightning and take on the Predators in Nashville.
Nashville lost 7-2 to the Seattle Kraken in an afternoon game yesterday.
Because the Maple Leafs were so dominant in Carolina despite losing the game, unless someone got banged up and couldn’t play, I would expect Sheldon Keefe to go with the same lineup tonight as he did last night.
The only change I would expect would be Joseph Woll getting the start in goal.
Related: 5 REASONS WHY JARNKROK IS A PERFECT FIT WITH MATTHEWS & MARNER