Leafs Weather the Storm, Down Hurricanes in Wild Matinee
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Monday, December 23, 2019
Less than twenty-four hours after the Toronto Raptors pulled off the biggest comeback in franchise history, the Toronto Maple Leafs had one of their own, scoring five third period goals to rally past the Carolina Hurricanes 8-6 in a wild matinee at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
Fans in attendance at this one must have felt they were on the Yukon Striker roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland. The Leafs exploded for three first period goals in just over five minutes, Jason Spezza pouncing on John Tavares’ wraparound attempt just thirty seconds in to get the Leafs on the board. William Nylander followed with his 14th of the season on the power play, John Tavares finding Nylander all alone in front of a defenceless James Reimer in the Hurricanes goal. The Leafs later scored again on the power play, Tavares getting his third point of the period, firing a wrist shot over Reimer from inside the face off circle. That was it for Reimer, the ex-Leaf replaced by backup goalie Petr Mrazek.
Down 3-0, the Hurricanes received a much needed lift at 13:49, Brock McGinn scoring a short-handed goal, beating Leafs goalie Freddy Andersen low on the stick side. It was the first of five consecutive goals by the Hurricanes, Martin Necas closing out the first period with a power play goal to get the ‘Canes within one after one period. This was followed by a dominant second stanza, with Carolina scoring three times - including Necas’ second of the game - and outshooting the Leafs 14-8. What started out looking like a laugher for Toronto suddenly was anything but.
Down 5-3 after two periods, Auston Matthews got the Leafs back in it early in the third, taking a pass from Zach Hyman and blasting a one-timer past Mrazek at 2:35. It was Matthews’ 24th goal of the season. Carolina responded, Erik Haula restoring the Hurricanes two goal advantage at 5:58 of the final frame.
The Leafs, however, simply would not be denied, Mitch Marner one-timing Auston Mathews’ perfect spinning backhand pass at 11:01 to get the Leafs back within a goal. Just 53 seconds later, Marner spotted Tyson Barrie dashing in from the point and the Leafs defenseman lifted a backhand past Mrazek to tie the game. A Carolina timeout did not help the Hurricanes. Marner stole the puck after the face off, intercepting a pass from Hurricanes defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk. The Leafs forward burst in alone and deked Mrazek, sliding the puck under the Hurricanes goalie for what proved to be the game winner – the Leafs’ third goal in 59 seconds. Pierre Engvall’s empty netter put the game away for the blue and white.
Marner finished with five points, his two goals during the third period outburst to go with three assists. Tavares had a goal and two helpers and Hyman finished with three assists. Freddy Andersen made 36 saves to get the win. Erik Haula and Martin Necas each had two goals and combined for seven points to lead Carolina.
It was the Leafs’ fifth straight win. Toronto now sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the Florida Panthers. The Buds are in New Jersey to take on the Devils on Friday night.