Generally coaches are adverse to games that abandon the defensive aspects of hockey, but for over 19,000 fans at Air Canada Centre, the firewagon approach to Monday’s outing was a godsend.
The end result was a 7-4 victory for the Maple Leafs, a win that yet again showcased the team’s high-end youthful talent. Auston Matthews and William Nylander each scored twice, and Mitch Marner also found the net. The other Toronto goals were netted by Leo Komarov, and Zach Hyman into an empty net.
Matthews provided a foreshawdowing of the evening’s events by scoring the opening goal of the game in the first period on a wraparound.
The Leafs had their hands full all night in trying to contain Anaheim’s top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Richard Rakell. Indeed, when Rakell found Getzlaf on the doorstep to tie the game in the second period’s opening minute, the stage was set for a barrage of offensive hockey.
Nylander converted on the first of two breakaways after an active pokecheck by Jake Gardiner sent Nylander in the clear, the young forward getting the better of goalie Ryan Miller on the glove side. But the Ducks responded when Rakell finished off a tic-tac-toe scoring play with his linemates, then went ahead on a power play marker by Ondrej Kase.
A scary injury to Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen occured in the second period after Perry accidentally clipped the netminder in the head with his skate. Andersen headed to the Leafs dressing room and was relieved by Curtis McElhinney.
Toronto tied the score when Marner converted a centring pass from Nazem Kadri on a Leafs power play. The home team regained the lead after Leo Komarov deflected Jake Gardiner’s point shot past Miller to round out the second period scoring.
Rakell evened the affair yet again in the third period after getting the better of McElhinney from a bad angle.
The eventual game-winning goal was tallied by Nylander after he received an outstanding stretch pass from Jake Gardiner, then beat Miller for his second breakaway tally of the evening.
Matthews provided the insurance after he jammed home a cross-ice pass from Kasperi Kapanen. Hyman completed the scoring into an empty net.
Gardiner finished the night with three assists, remarkably accomplishing the feat in one game for the third time in eight outings.
“We were joking about the football game – all offence – and that’s kind of how it was tonight,” Gardiner said. “We definitely need to tighten up in some areas but we obviously got it done so we’ll take it.”
Coach Mike Babcock provided scant information on Andersen’s condition. “I was just talking to him, he seems good. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow,” Babcock said.