The Maple Leafs made it five in a row for the first time since the 2006-07 season with a 4-2 win in Phoenix, as Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel stayed hot and Jonathan Bernier turned away a whopping 39 shots.
The Leafs also now hold the dubious honour of leading the league in 3rd period goals against with 60 after two third-period goals made things, as always, interesting. Nevertheless, the road swing started on the right note and the Leafs have collected all 10 of the last 10 available points.
- The Kadri line was the second unit out, and continued their good play with a good offensive zone shift (Gleason/Franson on D).
- McClement, Orr and Ashton provided a great shift early. Ashton, again, showed he deserves a better chance further up the lineup and more than 0:45 of ice time per period; he went on a rush created all on his own, shielding the puck well and getting a dangerous shot off.
- With Phaneuf/Gardiner – Kadri/Lupul/Kulemin out, a dangerous rush from David Moss nearly gave Phoenix the early lead after Phaneuf got caught on a dangerous/ill-timed change. He later fell behind the net, turning the puck over, and got beat wide off the rush in an uncharacteristic first period from #3.
- With 13:10 to go, Gardiner committed the first of too many turnovers tonight, with a pizza of a giveaway in the slot.
- Holland and Bodie pulled off some Leafy goodness after spending a long spell in their own zone, coming back the other way with a great 2-on-1 that Bodie couldn’t convert on (ended up in the crease, with his stick way off the ice, somehow).
- With 11:15 to go, JVR/Kessel connected with another great scoring chance. It looked like a dead play before Bozak as the third forward on the scene provided a strong stick to keep the play alive for two more shot attempts.
- After Phoenix hit the crossbar with around six-seven minutes to go, the Leafs were hemmed in their own zone and looking a little shaky defensively.
- GOAL: 1-0 Leafs. Carlyle had thrown together a different-looking Kessel, Kadri and Raymond line. P.J. Kessel took a hit to make a play out of the corner as Gardiner swooped into the slot and found the loose puck after two Phoenix players failed to clear it out of danger. Jake Gardiner picked up his fourth of the season.
- GOAL: 2-0 Leafs. A PP followed shortly after for Leafs after a clearing attempt went over the glass. The Leafs were looking confident on the man advantage. Phaneuf made a nice rush in deep, got a shot off, and Phoenix’s box of penalty killers had difficulty recovering. After Franson held the blueline well on an attempted clear by the Coyotes, Kessel opened some time and space on the half-wall with a nice little move and beat Smith between the legs to make it 2-0 Leafs. JVR provided the net-front presence, as per usual.
- That’s 12 points in 6 games for Phil Kessel, who is up to 50 in 51 on the season.
- Period over: Not necessarily a strong possession period, but lots of Leafy goodness with opportunistic scoring chances showcasing their skill.
- In a bit of a choppy start to the 2nd period, Dion took a lazy interference penalty and the Leafs 12th-ranked (on the road, 30th at home) PK was put to the test.
- A good kill to start, with a strong clear from Gunnarsson and a change 30 seconds in. A bit of luck helped preserve the two-goal lead after Ekman-Larsson hit the cross bar with a wicked wrist shot. Ribero took a sloppy high-sticking penalty on Gunnarsson on a zone entry and negated the PP for Phoenix, as the game went to 4on4 for 45 seconds.
- On an abbreviated powerplay after Dion returned from the box, there was some difficulty exiting zone with the Phaneuf / Franson pairing; Phaneuf took matters into his own hands and went for a rush and shot attempt. Phoenix came back with more zone time, even when on the PK. Nothing doing on that PP.
- GOAL: 3-0 Leafs. Carter Ashton provided a great 4th line shift on the cycle, drawing a penalty and sending the puck to Phaneuf at the point. Phaneuf’s shot wound up on the stick of, surprisingly, Carl Gunnarsson, who pinched way down low to finish his first goal of the year and first since last January.
- Bernier was playing lights out, with some assists from lady luck (3 posts/cross bars).
- Kadri took a high sticking penalty on a missed stick lift and the Leafs went to the PK. Another solid kill here for the Leafs, who look like a different team killing penalties on the road. Even with Bozak losing a stick, JVR and Bozak organized a position swap and Bozak managed to get his stick back. Just a much more confident group on the road for some reason.
- With seven minutes to go, the ice started to tilt heavily in Phoenix’ favour, as the Coyotes spent long spells in the Leafs zone. This was perhaps score effects, perhaps a more desperate Phoenix team or perhaps Toronto taking their foot off the gas.
- In a brief foray in the Phoenix end, a great rush from Kessel saw #81 curl up at the blue line and hit a trailing Cody Franson, who wired a wrist/snap shot off the iron.
- End of the 2nd: In a pretty poor period for the Leafs in the latter half, they were outshot 15-6 but led 3-0 after 40.
- A decent start to the period for the Leafs saw the teams relatively even in zone time.
- GOAL: 3-1 Leafs. On a very bizarre call four minutes into the period, Phaneuf got a tripping penalty after a blown whistle on an offside. Ribeiro scored on the PP, from Yandle off the point. The Leafs had collapsed on the puck down low and Gunnarsson blew a clearance, leaving acres of space high in the zone for Yandle to look up and find Ribeiro to the side of the net.
- This wasn’t one of Phaneuf’s better games this season. There was some questionable decision making and he often looked a step behind the play.
- Shortly thereafter, Jeff Helpern took a high sticking penalty on a collision with Mason Raymond. Franson threw a pizza up the middle on the PP, as the Leafs gave up another chance on their own PP while Phaneuf and Franson were on the ice.
- After the PP, Gunnarsson got skinned by Ribeiro for a clean look at the net in the slot, but Gunnarsson’s loose stick had the mind of its own to drag beside Ribeiro and do the defending for him.
- Antoine Vermette ran into Bernier with ten minutes to go, sending the Leafs to another PP. Franson was a nightmare on the PP in this period, giving the puck away in his own end again, resulting in more own-zone time on the PP for Phaneuf and Franson. JVR took a super-soft penalty behind the net for “interference,” negating the PP.
- On the 4 on 4, a 2-on-1 for Kadr and Lupul was stonewalled by Smith and a (very) long stretch pass the other way started a scramble play in the Leafs own zone with Phaneuf and Gleason in the same corner, out of sync.
- Some more back and forth play ensued, as the game started opening up with Phoenix pressing for a 2nd goal. Bozak made a strong outside drive to the net and got hauled down for the Leafs’ fifth powerplay of the game.
- The Leafs started their second defensive unit, finally. Dave Farrish still seems unable to notice that Phaneuf/Gardiner and Franson/Rielly are superior powerplay units.
- GOAL: 4-1 Leafs. Gardiner and Rielly had a hiccup on the passing play back and forth on the blueline, but they regrouped and Gardiner took the puck on his own for a clean zone entry. Gardiner set up a gorgeous passing play with Rielly, Raymond and Kadri for a Nazem Kadri goal that tipped in off a Coyotes D. A wonderful display of skill gave Kadri his 31st point of the season and fifth point in his last three games.
- GOAL: 4-2 Leafs. Another PP for the Leafs, their sixth of the game, after an Ekman-Larsson hook on Franson. Kadri forced a pass through two defenders and Vermette came back the other way and made him pay with a short-handed goal. The Leafs PP was dangerous at both ends on the night and it seemed like a shorthanded tally was a matter of time.
- That goal gave the Leafs 60 goals against in third periods this season, which is the worst in the League.
- Phoenix pulled Mike Smith for what seemed like an eternity with him out, including two play stoppages and a timeout. Interestingly— if you could read lips— Carlyle’s play was to get the puck back to Franson and have him give it a hard wrap around the boards and out. I was thinking at the time it would lead to an icing; the play was executed as he planned and it indeed resulted in an icing. Perhaps he was looking for a fortuitous tip on the half wall on the far side of the rink, but that’s a stupid play that could cost the game. Randy’s had enough of a hard time recently, so we’ll leave it go.
- Solid work by Kulemin and McClement at least kept the Leafs out of their end for a while as the final seconds ticked down. Another late shot block by Tim Gleason – looked to be in the face area – was the final note of the game. The Leafs win their fifth in a row for the first time since 2006-07.
After a good first half of the game, the Leafs seemed to take their foot off the gas for the back half. Jonathan Bernier deserved a more serious look for a spot on Team Canada. He faced 40+ shots and was absolutely brilliant.
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Game in 6: Toronto Maple Leafs at Phoenix Coyotes