Less than a week after losing 4-3 in overtime to the Florida Panthers on Hockey Night in Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs were looking for some revenge on Thursday night and came prepared for battle this time.

Prior to, the Leafs got a flurry of injury news that saw their lineup make some slight alterations. Per Leafs PR:

First Period

It was a back and forth game in the early going, and the Leafs allowed a few too many odd-man rushes going the other way. It would have been an ugly start if it weren’t for the key saves early from Frederik Andersen.

This chance was by far the most dangerous and could have been avoided if it weren’t for the sloppy play in the offensive zone.

Fortunately, the Leafs pace picked up as the period went on and they subsequently started generating higher quality scoring chances the other way. Each forward, even the fourth line, seemed to have good jump to their game.

From the midway point of the first onward, the Leafs were starting to take over the game. Out of all the forward lines, the John Tavares unit was really driving the bus with plays like this:

The Leafs also looked better in the defensive zone disrupting quality scoring rushes from the Panthers. Both Travis Dermott and Nikita Zaitsev (shown below) broke up two-on-one scoring chances. Had either gone in, the period could have been a much different story.

Not long after this play from Zaitsev, the Leafs found themselves on the power play, which had been a going through a much-talked-about drought in the month of December, with a stretch of 0-17 on the man advantage coming into the night.

The last few games showed signs that the Leafs power play was due to break through. It turned out that the two players that Luongo wanted to take the night off were the main focus of this opening tally.

It’s hard to say what was better here: The pass from Mitch Marner or the release from Auston Matthews.

This goal was all because of good puck movement (“puck speed,” as Babcock would put it), timing and execution from all five players on the ice. If you figured the floodgates would burst once this top unit got one, while we’re skipping ahead here, you won’t be disappointed.

The first period ended with the Leafs ahead 1-0. While the shots were close at 10-9 in favour of Toronto, the Leafs were far and away the better team.

Second Period

In the second period, the Leafs continued to apply the pressure and a second goal was clearly in the air.

Cue Auston Matthews:

Ho hum, 19 goals in 21 games for Auston Matthews — a 62-goal pace despite missing 14 games through injury.

Even after opening up the multi-goal advantage, the Leafs did not throttle down on the pressure at all as they continued to attack aggressively on the forecheck and worked the cycle game well. It had all the makings of a blowout at this point.

After his first goal was called back due to a kicking motion, Nazem Kadri got a redemption chance moments later thanks to an all-around great play from the Leafs.

That was a nice defensive read from Ron Hainsey to break up the scoring rush from the Panthers, allowing Rielly to jump up into the play and make a brilliant stretch pass to Connor Brown for his third assist of the game.

Following the 3-0 goal, the Panthers got a little more life back into their game thanks to two penalties from Zaitsev and Martin Marincin. Both times, the Leafs were successful in killing it off thanks to some good defensive posture and timely saves from Andersen.

In between those penalties, Kasperi Kapanen did what he normally does: use his speed to create a scoring chance.

Kapanen was able to effortlessly read the clearing attempt from Keith Yandle and block it with his stick before corralling it, all while at full speed and two Panthers defenders close behind. If that goal went in, there’s no doubt that would be on the highlight reel for a while.

The Panthers were able to crawl their way back in terms of the shot clock (18-17 Leafs) by the end of the second period, primarily due to their two power play chances. Once again though, the Leafs were the superior team in the period.

Third Period

Much like the previous two periods, the third once again saw the Leafs establishing their forecheck. That led to them getting another power play opportunity early on, which in turn led to this:

It’s amazing what one goal does to a unit’s confidence level.

Time to park the bus? Not a chance.

Marner is about as effective as anyone in the game at sucking in defenders and more often than not creates high scoring chances for his teammates in the open space. This has been the case multiple times for Tavares this year and #91 has taken full advantage, just as it was drawn up in the offseason.

That goal extended the Leafs lead to 5-0 and ended Roberto Luongo’s night, resulting in the return of James Reimer. It was classy of the Leafs faithful at Scotiabank Arena to give him a standing ovation as he entered the game — a proud Leaf during his tenure, the reception reflected that.

Now officially into garbage time, the Panthers got another power play opportunity a few minutes later and converted. Some quality passing and positioning from Florida resulted in a goal from Henrik Borgstrom to spoil Andersen’s shutout bid.

The Panthers had some more jump to their game after their goal and the Leafs showed some sloppiness in their own end, but Andersen held the fort to avoid any further damage.

Minutes later, the Leafs found themselves on the power play for the third time in the game. Both Matthews and Tavares had a chance to get a hat trick here, but take a wild guess who scored:

The best part of this play is that Marner was thinking pass the whole way and seemed visibly upset that he ended up getting credit for the goal.

After that, the Leafs did well to see the game out, cruising their way to a 6-1 victory for back-to-back five-goal wins after the demolition of the Devils in New Jersey on Tuesday.

Important Stats

Final Thoughts

  • Back-to-back complete performances for the Toronto Maple Leafs; they played pretty much from the opening draw to the final horn.
  • The special teams were the biggest difference in this one, as the ebbs and flows of confidence have turned back in their favour: The Leafs went a perfect 3-3 on the power play and 1-3 on the penalty kill.
  • Toronto’s star players really came to play in this one with especially impressive performances from Rielly, Matthews, Tavares, Marner, and Kadri.
  • Another good performance from Andersen in this one. Not much he could have done on that one goal against and tons of run support, but he was as steady as you could ask for.
  • The defense deserves a nod for effectively neutralizing the Panthers top guns. Rielly, Dermott, and Zaitsev all had good nights.
  • Matthews and Marner should do this more often: