Nazem Kadri scored a pair of first period goals and the Leafs staved off a rally by the Vegas Golden Knights to prevail 4-3 in a shootout, in Monday night action at Air Canada Centre. It was Toronto’s first-ever game against the expansion franchise.
Kadri found a loose puck in the slot and beat Vegas goaltender Maxime Lagace to open the scoring on a power play. The lead was short-lived as James Neal was the beneficiary of a fortunate puck bounce off his skate and past Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen for the equalizer.
The Leafs went ahead on a James van Riemsdyk goal set up by a terrific play from Auston Matthews. Matthews – who was a game-time decision as a result of a lingering ailment – carried the puck into the zone and used his combination of speed and strength to manoeuvre his way from the right wing and past the defenders into the slot area before finding van Riemsdyk for a backhand assist.
Kadri got his second of the game after converting a cross-ice pass from Patrick Marleau and pulling a spin-o-rama move, a la Serge Savard, for a two-goal Leafs lead.
However Vegas crept to within a goal on a second period power play marker by Reilly Smith. Then in the third period, the Golden Knights took advantage of a horrendous Toronto line change and Shea Theodore spotted Deryk Engelland on the right wing. Engelland fired a stoppable shot that beat Andersen cleanly on the far side, evening the score.
After a scoreless overtime period, Mitch Marner – the Leafs’ first shooter – scored the eventual game winner. Andersen gained redemption by stopping all three Golden Knights skaters who participated in the shootout.
“Obviously, he didn’t like [the third goal], but good for him,” coach Mike Babcock said of Andersen. “That was a good win for him. I believe that shootout is even better for him because you did it and now you get to feel good about yourself.”
Kadri concurred. “Freddie’s got that short-term memory, and that’s what you need as a goaltender, being able to shake those ones off,” he said.