Maple Leafs Explode Late for 7-4 Win Over the Ducks

Toronto (7) Anaheim (4)

By: Gordon Brown

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A devastating loss on Saturday had the Maple Leafs looking to rebound and avoid the onset of a losing skid as the Anaheim Ducks were in town for a visit. 

The taste of dropping a 4-1 decision to Boston and having their four-game win streak broken remained a bitter for Mike Babcock—meaning changes were bound to take place. With that being said, Roman Polak was conveniently activated from the Injured Reserve and slotted back into the lineup on Monday. 

A corresponding move had to be made in order to comply with the 23-man roster and that meant someone had to be demoted. Essentially, Andreas Borgman got the short-end of the stick and was loaned to the Marlies in favour of Babcock’s veteran of choice.

It certainly isn’t a popular decision but Toronto’s bench-boss went on to justify the move,

“(Polak is) a good player for us, a real good penalty killer. We gave up two power-play goals last game. Polak fits in and Dermott really seems to move the puck.” 

Hold on a second… Did Travis Dermott just play himself into an everyday role? If not, it’s at least beginning to look that way. Rejoice!

Still, many are questioning Babcock’s reasoning simply because Polak has been a notoriously poor shot suppressor and possession player this season. Sure, he kills penalties—but he also takes plenty of them, too.

Frederik Andersen received the nod in goal against his former team, who happen to be coached by former Maple Leafs head coach, Randy Carlyle.

Anaheim arrived in Toronto while in the midst of back-to-back losses and hoped for a substantial turnaround of their own.

As the action got underway, Auston Matthews promptly broke the ice for the game’s first tally at the 6:32 mark. The 20-year-old phenom yielded a jaw-dropping individual effort to ignite the home crowd. Matthews exploded around the net to wrap the puck around the opposite post, cleanly beating Ryan Miller from side-to-side. 

That lead would remain intact until Ryan Getzlaf had something to say about it in the second period.  

Mitch Marner failed to exit the zone and allowed the Ducks to establish themselves in the offensive zone, which is where overwhelming skill took over. Getzlaf managed to record his 7th goal of the season just 0:43 seconds in after undressing a pair of defenders and playing a give-and-go with Rickard Rakell, all before putting one past Andersen.

Luckily for Mitch Marner and the Leafs, that goal would be erased with one flick of the wrist by William Nylander. Jake Gardiner poked the puck past Andrew Cogliano to force a turnover and send Nylander on a fast-break with nobody standing in his path. As anticipated, the slick Swede slipped a shot over Miller’s glove hand and restored the lead at 2-1.

Toronto’s lead was short-lived as the Ducks countered with two goals in under three minutes, taking a 3-2 advantage in the process. Rickard Rakell continued his stellar performance to find the equalizer, with Ondrej Kase scoring the go-ahead goal in succession. 

A scary situation followed as Frederik Andersen went down with a possible concussion after taking a skate to the face. Corey Perry drove towards the Maple Leaf goaltender before being upended and clipping him in the mask. He stayed down for several minutes before being led to the quiet room for concussion protocol—he would not return.

It didn’t take long for this back-and-forth affair to take another turn, as Toronto struck back with a vengeance before the end of the frame.

Mitch Marner redeemed his costly turnover from earlier and recorded his 10th goal in the process. Nazem Kadri entered the Anaheim zone with speed before locating a trailing Mitch Marner, who received a crisp pass and ripped it through Ryan Miller to knot the score once again.

Shortly after, Leo Komarov broke the deadlock and closed out the period with a goal of his own—after forty minutes, Toronto led by a score of 4-3.

Curtis McElhinney had stepped in for Frederik Andersen in his first relief appearance of the season and continued in between the pipes for the third as well—his readiness would be tested early on. 

Anaheim came out of the second intermission with a bang and scored early, once again, to even the score at 4-apiece. Rickard Rakell notched his second goal and third point of the evening on the play.

Moments later, Jake Gardiner posted his third assist of the night with a stretch pass to send William Nylander on another breakaway. Nylander would make no mistake picking his spot and helped retake the lead, kicking off what turned out to be the first of three unanswered goals to seal a 7-4 win in the final eighteen minutes of play.

Auston Matthews (25) and Zach Hyman (11) each scored, consecutively, to seal the victory.

A cold goaltender can only do so much coming in mid-game, yet Curtis McElhinney still managed to make 15/16 saves en route to a 7-4 victory over the Ducks. Tonight is an example of how McElhinney’s solid play as of late can be the silver-lining to a potential Frederik Andersen injury—but let’s just hope Freddy is okay.

Side notes:

Auston Matthews’ 23rd even strength goal is only one behind Nikita Kucherov for the league-lead.

Zach Hyman’s 11th goal sets a new career-high

Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Jake Gardiner each posted 3-points on the night. 

Additionally, Gardiner now has 13 assists in his last 9 games.

Toronto’s Assistant Equipment Manager, Tom Blatchford, worked his 1000th professional hockey game. Congratulations on accomplishing such a milestone, Tom! 

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca

On Twitter - @GordBrown_  

Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs