For all the pucks that the Leafs fired on Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov, they had but one goal to show for their efforts.
Varlamov was simply dominant in the Avalanche’s 3-1 victory at Air Canada Centre. The one-time Vezina Trophy finalist turned aside an astounding 51 shots to earn two points for his team, just 24 hours after Colorado was humiliated in a lopsided defeat in Montreal.
The Leafs generated 21 shots in each of the first and third periods. Their most dominant line was the trio of Auston Matthews, Zach Hyman and William Nylander, who combined for 13 shots on goal and several top-notch scoring chances.
Despite the huge deficit in shots in the opening period, Colorado opened the scoring when Mikko Rantanen converted on an Avalanche power play. Leafs netminder Antoine Bibeau, making his NHL debut, stumbled while trying to locate the puck and was caught out of position on the play.
In the second period, Nathan MacKinnon scored a highlight reel goal, beating three Leafs defenders to extend the visitors’ lead. Coach Mike Babcock shuffled his right wingers, moving Marner back with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak after starting the Leafs rookie on the fourth line.
Varlamov appeared poised for the shutout, but the Avalanche took a pair of late penalties, and Bibeau was summoned to the bench to give the Leafs a 6-on-3 advantage. Finally Jake Gardiner solved Varlamov with 2:36 left in regulation to give Toronto the chance to salvage a point.
Unfortunately for Leafs fans, Blake Comeau sealed the game with an empty-netter.
Special teams were a weakness for Toronto. The Leafs went just 1-for-6 on the power play, while killing 2 of 4 penalties.
“We had lots of opportunity to score and we didn’t,” Babcock said. “Our power play had good looks, but we’ve got to score on our power play, we can’t just get good looks. Our penalty kill, which has been spot on, gave up two tonight.”