Conn Smythe famously quipped “If you can’t beat ’em in the alley, you can’t beat ’em on the ice.”
Indeed the Maple Leafs would have made their original owner proud on Saturday night, holding their own not only with the fisticuffs, but on the scoresheet in a 6-3 victory, the club’s third consecutive win.
The offensive outburst, led by Tyler Bozak’s two goals and assist, alongside James van Riemsdyk’s three assists, took a turn for the Federal League a la “Slap Shot” when mayhem ensued in the third period.
The catalyst for the unpleasantries was a blindside hit by Nazem Kadri on Daniel Sedin after the Swedish star trimmed the Leafs lead to 5-3 at that point. Jannik Hansen jostled with Kadri in defence of his teammate and both players were summarily ejected. Kadri received a game misconduct and will likely face further discipline from the NHL, having already been suspended three times in his NHL career.
With the game out of reach, Leo Komarov fought Derek Dorsett – the Vancouver player going ballistic while chirping towards the Toronto bench – and Morgan Rielly was the victim of an uncalled spear courtesy of Alex Burrows. Just seven seconds later, Rielly exacted his revenge on Burrows by delivering a few punches of his own, happily earning his part in a coincidental fighting major while the Canucks pest received an instigator penalty and a game misconduct.
But the biggest brouhaha was saved for the 14:52 minute mark of the third period when Matt Martin and Troy Stecher dropped the gloves in the corner of the Canucks zone. That’s when Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller took it upon himself to join in the festivities, a decision that eventually landed the netminder an automatic ejection as the third man in the altercation.
Miller’s counterpart Frederik Andersen skated the length of the ice to defend his teammate. Both netminders were escorted off for an early shower, leaving the backup tenders Jhonas Enroth and Jacob Markstrom to finish up.
Altogether, 171 minutes were assessed in penalty minutes.
Anyone who has seen the flick with the famous Hanson Brothers (not ‘Hansen’ – although the circumstance is appropriate, see Jannik) had a flashback to old-time hockey.
The brawling overshadowed what was a terrific effort from the Leafs’ young stars. Mitch Marner continued to dazzle Leafs fans with his brilliance, finishing the night with a goal and an assist. Auston Matthews didn’t find the back of the net, but had as many scoring chances as he did in his first career outing in which he scored four goals on opening night.
Kadri, and Nikita Soshnikov, had the other Leafs goals.
“Obviously they were upset with the hits by Rielly (versus Hansen) and [Kadri],” coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously our team had lots of energy tonight and it was a good win for our team — three in a row — and we have an off-day, it’s Saturday night. I haven’t seen any of that rodeo stuff since junior. They got excited, we got excited, we won.”
The rematch for these two clubs is set for Saturday, December 3 in Vancouver.
It’s safe to see that Christmas cards won’t be exchanged.