The Toronto Maple Leafs, led by John Tavares’ four-goal performance, bounced back in a high-flying victory against the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

First Period

Much like the last three games, the Leafs started off the night by flying around in the offensive zone generating chance after chance. The opening seconds was an encouraging sign that the Leafs are getting back on track as far as starting games on time.

Roughly two minutes into the game, the impossible became possible: The Leafs finally scored the first goal of a game.

A passing play that ended with Nazem Kadri feeding Patrick Marleau in the slot, but Kasperi Kapanen also created that rush by retrieving the loose puck in his own end.

Barely a few minutes later, the Leafs doubled their lead in style.

It was great cycle work from the Auston Matthews line that made this goal possible, and Andreas Johnsson deserves a good deal of credit for setting up Jake Muzzin with his vision and slick pass along the boards in what was an all-around strong sequence from the’ Matthews line.

That goal ended Sam Montembeault’s night, making way for Roberto Luongo to finish up the game. Toronto continued to pile on the scoring chances, culminating in a power-play chance. In the blink of an eye, the Leafs converted on their opportunity.

This was a nice passing movement from the Leafs top unit that ended with a fluky goal from John Tavares after Mitch Marner sent the puck in on net and it appeared that Aaron Ekblad knocked the puck into his own goal. It was a weird way to tie a franchise mark with his 43rd goal, but Tavares will take it.

It seemed the Leafs had the game under wraps and had a comfortable grasp on the momentum, but the Panthers caught them on the counterattack for a goal off the rush.

Hainsey was caught up ice after a bizarre bounce off the dasher got by him at the other end, but he didn’t do enough to take away Hawryluk’s stick there after recovering.

The goal didn’t seem to affect the Leafs much; a few minutes after the Hawryluk goal, Toronto added more insurance.

Tavares made this goal possible thanks to great puck protection along the boards to keep the play alive. William Nylander also did a commendable job corraling the loose puck to allow Zach Hyman to send a nice pass for Tavares to bury in tight for his 43rd of the season.

Just over a minute later, a wild first period took another turn.

It’s a goal that Frederik Andersen would like to have back, but the Leafs had trouble exiting their zone and fell victim to the Panthers’ strong play on the cycle before Mike Matheson’s shot appears to have been redirected slightly by Nikita Zaitsev in front.

Florida fed off of that goal a little bit as they began to turn the tide in their favour late in the period and went to the power play as the period drew to a close, with the Leafs leading 4-2 after 20 minutes.

Second Period

While the Panthers were unable to convert on the man-advantage (thanks to some solid penalty killing from the Leafs), Florida began the period with a flurry of chances. The Leafs were on their heels for the first few minutes as the Panthers tried to make a game of it.

After some close calls, including a Leafs power-play, Tavares extended the lead.

This was a great breakout off the face-off from the Leafs here with Rielly, Tavares, and Nylander executing short tape-to-tape passes up the ice. Rielly jumped up into the play and fed Tavares, who was streaking into the slot to finish off his second hat-trick of the season.

Things seemed to settle down as the period progressed as neither team could generate many quality chances in succession. When opportunities developed for the Leafs, they remained dangerous.

Rielly generated some great chances offensively throughout this game, including this one off of an o-zone draw.

Andersen’s night nearly ended prematurely when he got a scare from on a knock in the crease by Troy Brouwer, but he was able to shake it off and remain in the game and the Leafs were thankful for that after he ended up on the highlight reel with this key stop:

Following a less than stellar final few minutes of the period, both teams headed to the locker room with the Leafs in front 5-2.

Third Period

The Leafs came out fast to start the final period as they were buzzing around in the offensive zone generating scoring chances in quick succession. After a few minutes of sustained pressure, the Leafs further padded their lead as Tavares hit them with the four.

Zaitsev’s shot was blocked on the way through, but Marner was able to corral the rebound and fire a shot that bounced off Luongo’s pads and onto the stick of Tavares before scoring in his usual office area on the ice. Kyle Dubas is not regretting that signing one bit.

A few minutes later, the Panthers stormed back the other way and slowly clawed their way back into the game.

Zaitsev’s reaction after the goal just about sums it up perfectly; this was a frustrating defensive sequence in which the Leafs did a poor job containing the Panthers counter-attack, backed off, conceded the line easily, and Jonathan Huberdeau was afforded too much time and space in front to knock in the rebound. As a five-man unit, they need to be much stiffer than this defensively.

The Leafs shook it off and responded with another pretty goal just a little over a minute after.

This was a smart play from Rielly in recognizing Hyman was in prime scoring position and hitting him with a quick down-low feed. The move Hyman made brought back memories of James van Riemsdyk in front in what was a pretty play marking career bests for both players involved.

Florida took control of the game as the period progressed and didn’t go away. Eventually, the Panthers earned another power-play chance after Marleau went to the box for hooking. On the ensuing chance, Huberdeau notched his second of the night:

Shortly thereafter, the temperature of the game elevated a few notches and the physical play ramped up. Credit to Ron Hainsey here for answering the bell:

Hawryluk appeared to have glanced Tavares in the head with an elbow, which could have been an extremely dangerous play.

Florida was unable to convert on the ensuing power-play, but they again kept the pressure on. As the clock wound down, they cut the deficit to two.

That was a total defensive letoff from the Tavares line as Hawryluk picked up his own rebound unencumbered and buried a goal from in tight.

Florida pulled their goalie looking to bring it one closer, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Leafs breathed a sigh of relief and held on for a wild 7-5 victory.

Clip of the Night

Notable Stats

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Locations

Post Game Notes

  • For the vast majority of this game, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the driver’s seat and deservedly ran up a lead early. They were effective forcing turnovers on the forecheck, driving the net, generating plays off the cycle, and hitting the target on their looks. They started the night with a nice tone-setting shift led by Andreas Johnsson’s forecheck, which is exactly the type of thing they need to more of to reverse their struggles in first periods. After getting frustrated by Alexander Georgiev on Saturday, the Leafs converted on their chances and broke the dam that was clearly ready to burst. Obviously, the major concern has to be with the play of the team’s continued defensive frailties and of Frederik Andersen, who had a rough third period that nearly allowed the Florida Panthers to tie the game. Nonetheless, the Leafs badly needed a night like this where the offensive floodgates burst open and hopefully they can get back on a roll shooting percentage wise heading into the playoffs.
  • The clear star of the show was the one-man wrecking crew of John Tavares in the offensive end, finishing the night with his first career four-goal performance, all scored in trademark unspectacular “right place, right time” fashion in front of the net. Along with linemates Mitch Marner (3 assists) and Zach Hyman (1 goal, 2 assists), the trio combined to register a 50.00 CF%, a 3.57 CF Rel, a 50.00 GF%, a 60.00 HDCF%, a 53.47 xGF%, and a 54.65 CF% Score adjusted at 5v5. It wasn’t a strong night for the line in the defensive zone (they were outshot and out-chanced considerably by the Panthers) but it was a very strong showing in the opposite end of the ice.
  • While Tavares had himself quite a game, the Nazem Kadri line was statistically the Leafs most effective and dangerous. At 5v5, Kadri, Kasperi Kapanen, and Patrick Marleau recorded a 60.00 CF%, a 59.09 FF%, a 62.50 SF%, a 76.92 SCF%, a 100.00 HDCF%, and a 70.33 xGF%. All three members of the line had been struggling to generate much offensively, so it was an encouraging sight to see them driving possession and generating great looks all game long. This is built to be a secondary scoring line that eats up second-rate competition and it needs to get going ahead of the playoffs, so this was a step forward on that front.
  • Finally, what else can be said about Morgan Rielly that hasn’t already been said? He has been extremely effective in the offensive zone and continues to rewrite the Leafs record book each passing game. With two assists on the night, Rielly became the third Leaf in franchise history to record a 70+ point campaign, joining the likes of Borje Salming and Ian Turnbull. Additionally, his season is tied for 6th among the most from a defenseman in Leafs history with 9 points separating him from first. He is also two goals away from tying the mark in goals in a season by a Leafs defenseman (the record is 22 shared by three different players). Regardless of if Rielly can match or exceed these numbers by seasons end, there’s no doubt his 2018-19 was been one to remember.

Condensed Game