The Toronto Maple Leafs looked dead in the water after the first 20 minutes of last night’s game against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, completely outplayed, their starting goaltender pulled, trailing 4-1 and booed off of the ice by the Scotiabank Arena faithful.
Whatever was said in the Toronto Maple Leafs locker room during the Intermission certainly worked as the home team responded like a completely different team right from the drop of the puck in the 2nd.
Auston Matthews scored twice in the second frame — his League-leading 12th and 13th goals of the season — and the Leafs completely dominated in front of Joseph Woll, who was more than solid after replacing Ilya Samsonov just 15:13 into the game, stopping 18 of the 19 shots he faced.
21 year-old Matthew Knies was outstanding as he joined Matthews and Mitch Marner on the top line last night.
He scored the team’s first goal, made a beautful spin-o-rama pass to set up Matthews and finished above 60% Expected Goals. The three accounted for four of the team’s six goals and ten total points and they couldn’t have looked better doing it — both individually and as a unit.
Toronto Maple Leafs Overcome Worst Period of Season, Comeback
Replaced by Knies on the top line, Calle Jarnkrok joined Max Domi and the recently-recalled Nick Robertson on a new-look third line and had both the game-tying and game-winning goals and that group, too, looked outstanding.
The new third line was extremely effective, posting a 77% Corsi rating, while outshooting their opposition 8-2.
The Tavares-Nylander-Bertuzzi were victimized twice 5v5, but a lot of that was on the goalie and the blue-line.
Nylander, though, made amends in the overtime period, driving the play from his own zone and into Tampa’s and starting a brilliant tic-tac-toe play among he, Morgan Rielly and Jarnkrok for the game winner. The assist extended Nylander’s point streak to 12 games.
Call-up blueliners, William Lagesson and Simon Benoit, both had solid efforts on the back end and didn’t look out of place while playing 15:57 and 14:41, respectively. They won their minutes across the board, and even if heavily sheltered, that’s a great development.
Comeback win aside, Leafs management has to be very concerned with the continued poor play of incumbent #1 goalie, Ilya Samsonov, the team’s blue-line, and the ineffectiveness of the fourth line.
It’s worth pointing out that Ryan Reaves was benched while the Toronto Maple Leafs were playing their best two periods of the season. (naturalstattrick.com).
The next game for the Leafs is Wednesday at 7pm when they host the struggling Ottawa Senators.