This Original Six battle on Hockey Night in Canada turned into an 11-goal barnburner.

While the Leafs‘ play wasn’t always pretty, five unanswered goals in the third period are almost always enough to overcome any sloppiness in the preceding 40 minutes.

Here is tonight’s game in 10:

1.  The Leafs did not exactly start this game on time. With Morgan Rielly caught deep on a turnover high in the offensive zone, Dylan Larkin scored just 75 seconds in on a partial breakaway off of a nice pass from Vladislav Namestnikov. At the first commercial break, Detroit held a 7-2 shot advantage over a Leafs team that looked half asleep.

Fortunately, the Leafs manufactured a response. Ondrej Kase nearly tied the game up when play resumed. Pierre Engvall, one of Toronto’s best players in the period, didn’t capitalize on his first high-danger scoring chance of the period, but he tied things up with three-and-a-half minutes to play in the opening frame.

The goal itself wasn’t pretty, but Engvall transitioned the puck all the way down the ice from deep in the defensive zone to get the play started. Rielly threw a weak backhand shot towards the slot, where Engvall was rewarded for driving to the net.

Engvall also made a nice defensive play to break up a potential odd-man rush earlier in the frame, so it was a well-earned reward on the scoreboard. The Leafs were outshot 15-9 in the opening frame despite zero penalties for either team, but Petr Mrazek managed to keep the game tied.

2.  Much like the first period, the Leafs failed to start the middle frame on time. TJ Brodie’s breakout pass went right to a Red Wings player in the neutral zone before Vladislav Namestnikov scored just 76 seconds in off of a scramble in front. Tyler Bertuzzi then doubled the lead just 55 seconds later when Brodie took away the pass on a 2-on-1 and Bertuzzi roofed the puck over Mrazek’s glove.

You would think that two quick goals against would wake the Leafs up, but Lucas Raymond just missed making it 4-1 a couple of minutes later. It looked like the Red Wings were on the power play up until the period’s first commercial break. Rielly and Brodie were on the ice for all four of the game’s first four goals, three of which were against Toronto.

Down two, the Leafs finally started to gain some momentum about halfway through the second. William Nylander drew a tripping call in the neutral zone to draw the first power play of the night before Auston Matthews had a good chance on the man advantage.

While that power play came up empty-handed, a line of Michael Bunting, David Kampf, and Ilya Mikheyev jumped over the boards afterward and brought the game to within one. After some good cycle time, Bunting nicely redirected Justin Holl’s point shot from the high slot.

Toronto came close to tying the game up soon after. Bunting, Matthews, and Rielly didn’t convert on a 3-on-1 before Marner and Kampf failed to take advantage of their own odd-man rush.

The Red Wings ended up scoring the game’s next goal after the Leafs took a sloppy too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, leading to Larkin’s second of the game thanks to a power-play one-timer.

The score remained 4-2 into the second intermission, but the final minutes of the frame were far from uneventful. Both goalies made multiple good saves that bailed out their defenders, and we got to see a scrum in the final moments, featuring — unsurprisingly – Michael Bunting in the middle of it for the Leafs.

3.  The third period started just like the other two with Dylan Larkin’s line generating plenty of chances in the opening minute. Fortunately, the Red Wings didn’t score 75 seconds into the period this time!

The game finally slowed down a bit, and it wasn’t until around the halfway mark when we finally saw the puck cross the goal line. A strong shift from the reunited Bunting, Matthews, and Marner line created the goal, with Bunting picking up his second of the night on a tip in front. It was fully “game on” with the score at 4-3 and 10 minutes left to play.

Sheldon Keefe reverting to Toronto’s usual lines seemed to be the spark the team needed. The Tavares line spent the majority of their next shift in the offensive zone before the Matthews line jumped on and scored again.

Guess who? With his hometown of Scarborough hosting Hockey Day in Canada, Michael Bunting completed the hat-trick to tie this game at 4-4. Marner was incredible on the shift, setting up Bunting for two high-danger chances and weaving his way past multiple defenders to pick up the assist.

The Leafs then went for the throat. Matthews nearly scored a go-ahead goal with a little over four minutes to play before Engvall set up Spezza for a good chance shortly after.

It ended up being an unlikely hero for the Leafs who scored the game-winner: Rasmus Sandin picked up his first goal of the season off of a great set-up from John Tavares with under three minutes to play.

The Leafs nearly blew the lead within a minute; Lucas Raymond’s point shot deflected off of Brodie’s chest and hit the cross-bar. Fortunately, Robby Fabbri took a hooking penalty right after and Mitch Marner capitalized with an empty-net goal.

With 11 seconds to play, Tavares tacked on a second empty netter to make it 7-4 Leafs as your final score.

4.  The Leafs went with the “balanced” lineup approach again tonight, with Auston Matthews between Michael Bunting and Ondrej Kase, John Tavares between Ilya Mikheyev and Mitch Marner, and David Kampf between Alex Kerfoot and William Nylander. Overall, these lines played fairly well against Anaheim, although John Gibson prevented them from scoring an even-strength goal. It was worth another look, but Keefe went back to his normal lineup by the third period with the team chasing the game.

Facing a multi-goal deficit, it’s not surprising Marner returned to Matthews’ wing, but we’ll see if Keefe really has the resolve to actually keep the Bunting, Matthews, and Marner line apart for Monday’s game against New Jersey. The trio was dominant in their period together, and the Tavares line also played better as soon as Kerfoot was back on the left side.

5.  Petr Mrazek made his sixth start of the season tonight against the team that drafted him in the city he called home for six seasons. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly go according to plan early on.

The first goal against was off of a nice move and finish from Larkin in alone. The second wasn’t really on him, either, and the third came off of a nice shot from Bertuzzi. It would have been nice if he came up with a save on one of those goals, but there wasn’t a real softy among them.  Larkin’s power-play goal went off of the edge of his pad and in, which I saw as his worst goal against of the night.

It wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch, but I’m going to give Mrazek some credit tonight. He made some big saves late in the second period to keep the Leafs in it before stopping all seven shots in the third period. He wasn’t amazing in this one, but he stayed in the fight and was good enough to pick up the win.

He’s now 4-2-0 on the season, and one of those losses came in Arizona where Karel Vejmelka turned into prime Dominik Hasek for a night. With a back-to-back coming up against New Jersey, we’ll see Mrazek back in action as soon as Tuesday night.

6.  The fourth line was great tonight. All three members led Toronto in expected goals percentage (xGF%). Engvall got on the scoreboard and came awfully close to a multi-goal game, while Spezza nearly scored the winner late in the third. It is the only line that didn’t get broken up after 40 minutes.

The fourth line has been great as of late whenever Engvall is on it but terrible without him. I’m not comparing Engvall to McDavid or MacKinnon, but Spezza and Simmonds really benefit from his transition skill and two-way game.

Engvall put five shots on goal and now has five points in his past five games. I understand that he’s big and not all that physical, but I don’t want to hear any complaints about Engvall for a while. He’s a valuable piece of this roster.

7.  I have to bring up the contract again: Michael Bunting’s cap hit is just $950k through next season. Toronto’s front office found the bargain of the offseason here.

He’s been an excellent fit on the team’s top line. The Leafs had a major hole to fill when Zach Hyman left for Edmonton on a big-ticket deal, but Bunting has gone a long way in making up the difference, including a 24-goal pace in the first half of the season after tonight’s hat trick. His courage, instincts, and touch around the net are a fantastic complement to two world-class players.

On top of that, he’s helped make up for the loss in the fan-favourite department; we’ll see plenty of Bunting jerseys around the city of Toronto sooner rather than later given his style of play. The scrum at the end of the second period was a small thing, but it’s important to have players that refuse to go away quietly and remain competitively engaged even when a game isn’t going the team’s way.

In the preseason, it looked like Bunting was set to start the season on the fourth line. Nick Ritchie was given the first chance in the top-six with a cap hit that suggested he was the “Plan A” to help replace Hyman. I don’t think the Leafs even expected that the Bunting signing would work out this well, but it’s a huge development that one of their options has been such a boon to the top six.

8.  With Jake Muzzin out of the lineup again, the Leafs partnered Sandin with Holl and Dermott with Liljegren for the second consecutive game. Surprisingly, it was the Rielly-Brodie pairing that was on for all three goals against at even strength; they also came close to giving up a fourth in the final minutes.

Given how strong the Rielly-Brodie pairing has been this season, I don’t think we can read too much into tonight. It wasn’t a particularly strong night for any of the pairings; Liljegren had a couple of bad giveaways early on, and the Sandin-Holl pairing got hemmed in their own end a few times.

That said, I wouldn’t say that the bottom two pairings were completely terrible, and it was nice to see Sandin rewarded with the game-winning goal. He hit the post multiple times the other night and had somehow gone seven straight games without a point. It’s going to be interesting to see who comes out of the lineup when Muzzin returns, but the high quantity of games coming up should lead to a regular rotation.

9.  The Leafs failed to start each period on time tonight. I’m not going to call this a trend — they’ve had plenty of early leads lately — but Sheldon Keefe and the coaching staff can’t possibly be happy with their starts to periods tonight. Maybe going back to their normal lineup will help, but more than any line configuration, I think they were simply half-asleep tonight for much of the first 40 minutes. On the bright side, it was nice to watch the other team blow a two-goal lead for once.

The Red Wings are better than they used to be, but they’re still a bottom-10 club by most metrics. The Leafs are expected to outplay them, and while they’ll take the two points, they didn’t exactly do that tonight. They ended up winning the shots on goal count 37 to 35, but score effects played a major role in that, and they waited until halfway through the third period to play their best hockey.

It’s no secret that the Leafs will be judged by their playoff success; it’s tough to call tonight’s performance a step in the right direction in terms of the process they’re looking to achieve toward that end.

10.  With only a couple of days left in January, we are inching closer to the 2022 trade deadline. At this time of the year, the intermissions are often just as entertaining as the games, as Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek provide plenty of trade speculation from around the league. We got a little bit of Leafs news tonight: It sounds like they aren’t interested in moving Mrazek this season, and they could be interested in right-shooting defenseman Josh Manson.

With Bunting locking down his spot at the top of the lineup, Ilya Mikheyev and Alex Kerfoot earning Keefe’s appreciation in their roles, and Engvall playing so well down the lineup, I have no idea who would sit if the team acquired a forward for the left side. Adding a defenseman like Manson might be addressing the biggest need at this point, but we haven’t been able to watch the Muzzin-Holl pairing much lately, and their play in February and March will be a big determining factor in the direction Dubas takes.

Who knows if Anaheim — currently first in the Pacific — will even end up selling at the deadline or if the Leafs are willing to pay the price if they do. It feels like we’ve been hearing about Manson as a big-bodied, defensively-sound option for their right side for years now. They probably could have used him tonight.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Game Highlights: Leafs 7 vs. Red Wings 4