In the Leafs’ first-ever visit to Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena, the defence looked, well, immobile.
From Jake Gardiner playing out of position, to Roman Polak being caught flat-footed, to Martin Marincin turning the puck over behind his goal, the collective malaise of the Toronto blue line resulted in a 6-3 defeat to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
Vegas used its explosive speed and transition game to breeze past the Leafs’ defenders and vault to a 3-0 lead after one period of play.
Patrick Marleau and William Karlsson exchanged goals in the second frame before Auston Matthews entered into the foray and nearly single-handedly staged a rally with a pair of tallies scored within 75 seconds of play distributed over the final two periods.
But Jonathan Marchessault restored Vegas’s two-goal lead, and Karlsson capped of the afternoon with his third goal of the game, scored into an empty net, registering the first hat trick in Golden Knights franchise history.
“You’ve got to give them credit, they skated. I thought they were real good down the middle, their centre ice position was real solid,” coach Mike Babcock said to reporters after the game, when asked to assess the opponents.
The Leafs flew back to Toronto immediately following the game, and on Tuesday the team hosts Tampa Bay to begin a stretch of six consecutive outings at Air Canada Centre.