It was a strange one at Scotiabank Arena Tuesday night, as the Toronto Maple Leafs snatched victory from the jaws of defeat versus the Florida Panthers.
The final result was a 2-1 shootout victory in favour of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
However, much of the crowd in attendance had already headed for the exits after the referees signaled that Florida’s Evan Rodrigues had scored the winning goal in round 5 of the extended shootout. Moments later (after video review) the goal was disallowed due to a ruling that the puck had rebounded off Leafs goalie Joseph Woll‘s pad before being shoveled into the net by Rodrigues.
Off to round 6, where Leafs fourth liner Noah Gregor put one past Florida netminder Anthony Stolarz, and Woll stopped Nick Cousins to seal the victory.
The Leafs went home with a win but Florida deserved a better fate in this one. First star Joseph Woll stole the show as well as the two points, stopping all but one of the 39 shots he faced in regulation plus overtime. Stolarz was also good for the Panthers, stopping 31 of 32 Toronto shots (stats from NHL.com).
Toronto Maple Leafs Overcome Yet Another Slow Start
The Toronto Maple Leafs came out of the gate like molasses in January, being outshot 15-7 in the first period. Toronto looked disorganized, disinterested and discouraged as Florida outhustled and outmuscled the Leafs all over the ice. Only Woll’s fine play kept the score limited to 1-0 Florida.
Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe likely ripped into his players during intermission, and the normally composed coach continued to give it to them on the bench as the game progressed. For this game, at least, the players responded.
Toronto winger Mitch Marner returned from taking a hard wrist shot to the face during the first period to display some guts and grit for the rest of the match. Auston Matthews threw a nice check to put Florida defender Niko Mikkola hard into the boards. Max Domi dropped the gloves against the bigger Sam Bennett.
The results weren’t pretty, but at least the effort was there in the final two periods. While Woll held the fort in the Leafs end, Noah Gregor scored a breakaway goal to tie the game in the 2nd period on a nice individual hustle play. The teams played a scoreless third period before heading to overtime and the wacky shootout.
The Toronto Maple Leafs unveiled revamped lines for this game, with William Nylander moving up to play with Auston Matthews and Matthew Knies, while Mitch Marner dropped down to the second line alongside John Tavares and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Neither line was particularly effective, and Nylander had zero shots at 5v5.
Even more frustrating than the lackluster start and the lack of luster from the top end of the payroll was the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs took a too many men on the ice penalty AGAIN. The team was already leading the league in this embarrassing category and took a lot of flak from fans and media just days ago for the last infraction (against the Chicago Blackhawks).
Unfortunately, this lack of discipline is symptomatic of the play of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. If the players can’t count to six, is there much hope for a slightly more difficult task, such as winning a Stanley Cup?
Toronto’s next game is Thursday night versus the visiting Seattle Kraken.