A Good Loss - Coyotes over Leafs 3-2 in SO
On a night in which the Leafs were down 2-0 less than six minutes into the game this evening could have gone in a very bad direction. An early Dion Phaneuf mistake led to another odd man rush against the Leafs, and Coyotes captain Shane Doan made the Leafs pay. Oliver Ekman Larsson then floated a wrist shot past a dazed Ben Scrivens and the Leafs were scrambling. For the next five minutes of the first period, the Leafs defensive game was nowhere to be found. Luckily they escaped that early bump in the road and recovered to dominate the rest of the first period. Toronto ended up outshooting Phoenix 12-10 in the opening frame, and if it wasn’t for a couple of big Mike Smith saves the Leafs could have very easily tied it up. Phil Kessel was flying all night, and was unfortunate to be stopped twice in the opening period on breakaways by Smith.
The Leafs defensive game actually looked really solid for the remainder of the night. While they pressured the Coyotes throughout the second period, Phoenix was still able to create some chances; however strong stick work and blocked shots allowed the Leafs to contain them to the outside for most of the game. When Phoenix did break through Scrivens was up to the task. The Leafs rookie goalie had a very Reimer-esque game tonight in the sense that although he gave up a couple of early goals he battled the rest of the way managing to give the Leafs a chance to come back. Scrivens made some huge saves tonight, especially in overtime. He has not given the Leafs any reason to not continue to start him in Reimer’s absence.
Being shutout through two periods by Smith, the Leafs seemed destined to fall short once again. Although the Leafs had 21 shots through two periods, there were many more that were blocked or missed the net. The Leafs had plenty of chances but just couldn’t finish. Early in the third the tide changed. Mike Komisarek snuck in and scored his first goal since October 15, 2010, and just over two minutes later Kessel finally beat Smith on the power play to tie the game. Kessel’s goal was his league leading 13, and he seems to be only getting better. Kessel was not only a force offensively, he also made some big defensive plays on the night.
Luke Schenn continues his strong play. He logged 20:38 on the night and his confidence seems to have returned. Matthew Lombardi looked great tonight. He set up Komisarek’s goal, and his speed was a weapon all night. With both Clark MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski leaving the game, the Leafs will need Lombardi to provide some secondary scoring. If he can play like he did tonight, then the Leafs will be much harder to match up against. Rookie Jake Gardiner struggled at times. The young defenseman made some costly turnovers, and seems to be a little tired. It may be time for him to get a breather.
Although the Leafs did lose the extra point in the shootout, tonight’s comeback was a character building night for this young team. Toronto had plenty of chances to win this game tonight, and were unfortunate not to. If either Matt Frattin or Tyler Bozak capitalized on their clear cut breakaway’s the Leafs get that extra point.
Another positive tonight was the Leafs penalty kill. Ranked 30th in the NHL, the Leafs killed off a big penalty in the second period that would have made it 3-0, and then survived a Coyotes man advantage with less than five minutes to go in a tie game. There were many good things to take out of tonight’s effort, and the PK was certainly one of them.
Men of the Match
Leafs: Phil Kessel – He seems to get better and better every game. A threat with his speed all night, the leagues leading scorer Coyotes blueliner David Schlemko all night. Scored his league leading 13th, and could easily have had a hat trick tonight. Was unfortunately stopped in the shootout by Smith.
Coyotes: Adrian Aucoin – The veteran defenseman just keeps going and going. He played 22:56 on the night, and swatted the Leafs attackers away with ease all night. Hardly seems to break a sweat when on the ice.
Bowenism of the Night
“Now here’s Dean Lombardi with the puck” Unless the Leafs signed the Los Angelas Kings general manager and put him on the ice I think Joe meant Matthew Lombardi. It may be time for Joe to stop drinking during games.
A bonus Bowenism was when the Coyotes had their late power play in the third, he called every player on the ice Ray Whitney at least once.
The Leafs head to Nashville Thursday to take on the Predators. Look for Nazem Kadri to be back with the club following the Grabovski and MacArthur injuries. Also Tim Connolly is expected to return to the lineup.