A dominant first 40 minutes was thrown away in frustrating fashion in the third period as the Toronto Maple Leafs lost a critical game to Mark Pysyk and the Florida Panthers on Monday night, dropping out of a playoff spot in the process.

First Period

The Leafs came out of the gate with a sense of urgency that matched the importance of the game and the need for a response after the last ordeal versus Florida. For the first half of the period, they were really hitting their groove, generating quality chances off the cycle and in transition and spending basically the entire time on offense.

They were dynamic inside the offensive third, making Sergei Bobrovsky work to make great saves like this one:

After about 11 minutes of playing time, the Leafs managed to hold the Panthers without a shot on goal. Cue Florida opening the scoring on their second shot of the night. A rough defensive sequence here as Travis Dermott committed to the puck handler and allowed Mark Pysyk the time and space to bury the shot in front.

That tally gave the Panthers some life, especially after they generated a subsequent power-play opportunity, and it could have resulted in a bigger hole for Toronto if not for this save from Frederik Andersen:

Late in the period, following a neutral-zone turnover by the Leafs, Frank Vitrano collided with Andersen off the rush — a big scare for the Leafs.

Andersen was able to finish the period, but he was taken out of the game at the intermission and went through concussion protocol.

Second Period

With Michael Hutchinson taking over the crease, the Leafs responded in exactly the right fashion — by owning the puck and dominating the run of play through and through. It resulted in a penalty drawn and, subsequently, the equalizer.

Mitch Marner showed great poise and patience here to hold onto the puck when the lane was blocked off, double-clutching initially and resetting the play before finding John Tavares in a bit of space in the low slot for the redirect.

The goal gave the Leafs more jump in their legs as they skated the Panthers into the ground in the middle frame.

Auston Matthews was having a standout middle frame with good plays at both ends of the ice, back-checking to snuff out developing threats and initiating rushes the other way.

In the late stages of the period, the Leafs got another power-play chance and nearly made good on it, generating high-quality chances at will.

While it didn’t result in a goal, the Leafs were able to get it done shortly thereafter off of another nice passing play down low.

You could tell how much Kasperi Kapanen needed that after the healthy scratch on Saturday, while William Nylander picked up another goal in tight to the net to give the Leafs a much-deserved 2-1 lead at the intermission.

The Leafs didn’t give up a single scoring chance at 5v5 in the middle frame, out-chancing the Panthers 11-0, outshooting them 10-2, and posting a resounding 87% xGF.

Third Period

The Leafs came out for the final frame hunting for the insurance marker and found it inside the first minute courtesy of the Matthews line.


That should’ve been the game, more or less, but the Leafs proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot courtesy of a head-scratching sequence from Cody Ceci. Under no real pressure, he attempted a D-to-D pass behind the net that he totally miscalculated, forcing Michael Hutchinson to swat the puck away from his goal and leading to a Panthers possession. Ceci then got thoroughly outbattled in front for the rebound:

Not long after, Marner was called for hooking and Florida had the game tied inside the blink of an eye. Frederik Gauthier tripped over himself off the draw and didn’t recover in time, opening up the seam for Jonathan Huberdeau to finish off at the backdoor. This was far too easy.

It was now anyone’s game, and the Leafs nearly reclaimed the lead through Pierre Engvall on a nice feed off the rush from Kasperi Kapanen.

On another power-play chance midway through the period, the Leafs again came within a whisker of retaking the lead, with Nylander again pulling off slick touch plays down low.

In what was a good summation of the game, the Panthers subsequently took the lead with a fortuitous goal at the other end. Michael Hutchinson wants this one back.

There wasn’t really a concerted push from the Leafs after the shock of the three unanswered Florida goals before Pysyk stole the puck off of Marner to ice the game with an empty netter.

Post-Game Notes

  • Let’s not beat around the bush here: With Aleksander Barkov out for Florida and a 3-1 lead with 19 minutes left after a truly dominant 40 minutes, this was a got-to-have-it game for the Toronto Maple Leafs and they flushed it away. While there were extenuating circumstances given Frederik Andersen‘s injury and Michael Hutchinson not facing any shots of note until the third period, the Leafs should have had this game dead and buried and did not see the game out well after taking the 3-1 lead. Auston Matthews called it a “lack of concentration and focus,” while Sheldon Keefe could be seen imploring his team to “wake up” on the bench after they were “f**** asleep” for the 3-2/3-3 goals. This was a pretty stunning outcome to this game for anyone who watched it in its entirety.
  • On the bright side, the excellent form of William Nylander continues to be on full display as he was looking super confident all game long. He finished the game with another goal but could have had a multi-point night easily with the great passes he was threading, especially to Auston Matthews on the power play. At even strength, he posted a 64.71 CF%, a 68.75 FF%, a 77.78 SF%, a 72.08 xGF%, a 71.43 SCF%, and a 60.00 HDCF%. With 25 goals on the year, he is flirting with a 40-goal pace and it doesn’t look like it’s totally beyond his reach at the moment. As Keefe said earlier this week, “I don’t see this as a hot streak necessarily… I think this is more what Will is capable of.”
  • A third period for the ages for Cody Ceci, who turned the puck over inexplicably prior to the 3-2 goal and got outworked a couple of times around his net for goals against. While he has had his stretches where he’s played a relatively simple game effectively, Ceci has too often had a tough time defending his net at critical moments, makes troubling decisions at times even without pressure, and has to own a big part of the blame for the Leafs’ downfall in the third period. With Timothy Liljegren remaining one of few bright spots on the Marlies with consistently excellent play, a lot of fans and pundits are calling on Kyle Dubas to swing a deal to move out Ceci’s dollars and upgrade the defense core elsewhere at the same time. Not an easy move or series of moves to make mid-season.
  • As alluded to above, Michael Hutchinson entered the game under unusual circumstances and had a nearly shot-free second period. The wheels came off in the third and he let in a few goals that he would probably want to have back, especially the Mike Hoffman tally that stood up as the game-winner. He only stopped 10 shots on 13 against, posting a .769 SV% in just under 40 minutes of action. Hutchinson’s starts have not been an issue of late, but his ability to step in as relief and either stop the bleeding or shut the door has not been there — he let in three on 16 shots vs. Edmonton, four on 17 shots vs. Florida a few weeks ago, and now three on 13 shots against the Panthers tonight.
  • It’s worth noting that Sheldon Keefe rightfully called this one of their best defensive performances of the year and gave his team a 99/100 probability of a winning result. The game flow graph below nearly is off the charts in the Leafs’ favour after 40 minutes; it should have been 4 or 5-1 with the game all but put to bed. Sergei Bobrovsky had a big part in that, but the Leafs didn’t bear down as well as they would’ve liked offensively and then shot themselves in the foot in the third between their cold goaltender, a tough penalty call on Mitch Marner, and an act of self-sabotage by Cody Ceci. The process and effort was definitely there, but we’re fast reaching the point where the process isn’t good enough and results are all that matter. The Leafs do play the Panthers two more times and there are 29 games left in the season with extremely thin margins among the wildcard teams as well as the third seed in the divisional playoff race. Provided the Frederik Andersen injury news isn’t as bad as initially feared — and that sounds like it’s the case — it would obviously be silly to panic now, but boy, this is a loss everyone in Leafs Nation is going to need to sleep off.

Clip of the Night

Notable Stats

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempt

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Locations

Condensed Game