Playing their second game in as many nights, the Maple Leafs doubled the Detroit Red Wings 6-3 on Wednesday to claim their sixth victory over the first seven games of the season.
Toronto’s well-balanced offensive attack was on display as six different scorers found the back of the net for the home side.
The Leafs generated just five shots on goal in what was a technically unsound first period for the team, yet managed to score four times. Nazem Kadri opened the scoring from just inside the faceoff circle, beating goalie Jimmy Howard above the shoulder. Just 43 seconds later, Zach Hyman was the beneficiary of a deflection off his right skate to extend Toronto’s lead.
Detroit climbed back into the game when Henrik Zetterberg scored on a wraparound that seemed to fool Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney. However McElhinney earned some redemption with a splendid pad save on Anthony Mantha, a moment that proved to be pivotal. Moments later, Auston Matthews – as the Leafs franchise player habitually does – dazzled the Red Wings defenders and fired a shot past Howard to reclaim the Leafs’ two-goal lead.
Matthews’s goal chased Howard from the game, but Wings backup netminder Petr Mrazek fared no better, at least not initially. A mere 40 seconds into his appearance, Mrazek surrendered a goal to newly-promoted second line winger Connor Brown to close out the scoring in the first period.
The Red Wings picked away at the Leafs’ lead (get over the “it was 4-1” references, already!) Tomas Tatar capitalized on his own rebound to get his team within a pair of goals. Then, Jonathan Ericsson fired a point shot past McElhinney, only to have the officials initially disallow the goal because of goalie interference. But Detroit coach Jeff Blashill successfully lobbied for an overrule of the call, resulting in his team’s third tally of the night.
Morgan Rielly connected on the power play for his first marker of the year. Rounding out the scoring, William Nylander had the only goal of the third period, an empty-netter.
Impressively, the Leafs have not surrendered a third period goal in back-to-back games, showing signs of maturation in terms of protecting leads.
“I think we’re still sorting things our right now for the most part. It’s still early, but we’re scoring in bunches and that goes a long way early on,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I think as the season progresses I’d like to see us tighten up a little bit more, but that’ll come with experience and games here.”
Notes: Patrick Marleau was recognized during a television timeout for playing in his 1,500th career game. He is just the 18th player in NHL history – and second youngest – to reach the milestone, after Scott Stevens… The Leafs honoured Gord Downie in a pre-game ceremony following the passing of The Tragically Hip’s lead singer due to brain cancer. In addition, Air Canada Centre organist Jimmy Holmstrom had performed a rendition of “Ahead By A Century” during the pre-game warmups. Also, throughout the night, the following songs from The Tragically Hip were blared over the arena’s loudspeakers:
Ahead By a Century
Fifty Mission Cap
At The Hundredth Meridian
Blow At High Dough
New Orleans Is Sinking