Despite a bright start and a decent push in the third period, a messy 10 minutes sunk the Maple Leafs as their six-game winning streak came to an end with a 5-2 loss in Calgary.

Let’s hope Ondrej Kase is okay after leaving the game with a possible head injury.

Your game in 10:

1.  Through 24 minutes of this game, everything seemed to be trending in the right direction for the Leafs and the professionalism of their performance was worthy of full marks. Despite four penalties in the first period, they outshot the Flames 18-11 in the opening 20 minutes (48-26 over the full 60), including a 4-3 shot advantage while down a man at four-on-five. They also killed 30 seconds of a three-on-five and built momentum off of their impressive kills by largely controlling play at 5v5.

The Flames broadcasters quickly remarked, “the pace of this game is at a whole other level,” compared to Calgary’s 6-0 win over the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights the night prior. Despite the constant disruption from all of the penalties, the Leafs controlled well over 60% of the shot attempts, scoring chances, and expected goals at 5v5 in the first period.

2.  The 1-0 Rasmus Sandin goal early in the second period came off of a good offensive-zone shift by the John Tavares line. Amid a mediocre stretch of play from the line and coming off of a game in which they gave up two goals at 5v5 and were out possessed 60-40 vs. Carolina, I was encouraged by the line’s start to this game; William Nylander had multiple puck recoveries tracking back that turned his line back onto offense, and their goal came off of an offensive-zone shift where they generated multiple looks from the slot.  Unfortunately, the line’s game unraveled from there.

By the way, after scoring zero goals on his first 30 shots and waiting 33 games for his first goal of the season, Sandin now has two goals on his last six shots since Jan. 29.

3.  Really, this game came down to the Leafs losing their details for about 10 minutes, the Flames taking full advantage, and Jack Campbell not coming up with an extra save or two to stem the bleeding for his team.

We had a 2v2 rush against with Bunting and Holl (and what should’ve been support on the backcheck from Marner) that the Leafs made a mess of; poor sort-outs and a missed assignment at the backdoor (Nylander) off a lost defensive-zone faceoff; another goal right off of a lost defensive-zone draw — a deflection on a point shot on the Flames’ power play following a stick infraction by Nylander; and the sea parting at the defensive blue line by the Muzzin-Holl pairing for the 4-1 goal.

4.  Of those goals, including the 5-1 tally at the start of the third, Jack Campbell has to come up with a save somewhere to keep his team in the game. None were abjectly weak goals you can hang fully on the goalie, but he wasn’t quite big and square at the top of his crease on two of them from long range, and he usually comes up with something somewhere along the way to keep the Leafs within striking distance. Compared to Jacob Markstrom’s performance at the end, it meant the Leafs were facing a big uphill battle to get a result out of this game.

I’d imagine the plan was to get Petr Mrazek right back into the crease on Saturday regardless of tonight’s outcome, but it definitely seems like an opportunity to ratchet up the healthy-competition level here knowing Mrazek is simply in better form at the moment.

5.  I really didn’t feel like the Leafs were out of the game entering the third period at 4-1, and they started the final frame with some positive shifts from the top line, which forced two consecutive icings by the Flames. That Rasmus Andersson goal, which started with a bad turnover by Alex Kerfoot in the neutral zone — one of several by him in this game — was a killer one to give up.

The Leafs’ push from there was still pretty strong, led by a number of dominant shifts by the Bunting-Matthews-Marner line, but it was too much to ask against a Flames team that defends its net well and had Markstrom in peak form between the pipes.

6.  Mitch Marner‘s 10 shots on goal tonight mark an NHL career-high, by the way. If you’re going to have your eight-game goal-scoring streak snapped, that’s the way to do it. Matthews added eight shots on goal of his own, and the line controlled 78% of the shot attempts.

The Leafs’ third line also drew a penalty and created some action at the net in the third period, but it was too little, too late. Not helping their push to make a game of it was the off night from the Leafs’ power play, which struggled to get off of the perimeter enough against a good penalty kill and only really generated a couple of half-looks in the game; their best chance of the night came off of a nice rush-play linkup by Matthews and Marner.

Also not helping matters was that the team was down to 10 forwards with the 11/7 approach due to Wayne Simmonds’ absence and Kase’s injury; that meant Travis Dermott moved up to forward at one point in the third.

7.  Full marks again for the “no quit” in Michael Bunting‘s game. We’ve seen it a bunch in games where the Leafs are seemingly on the ropes on the scoreboard; whether it’s a scrum, a goal, or — like tonight and a few other times this season — both, he is often a major sparkplug in keeping the team in the fight.

The “entice a shove on the back, accidentally-on-purpose fall on the goalie after the whistle”-move we saw from Bunting in the third period is the exact kind of gamesmanship the Leafs need more of when they’re up against a hot goalie who is seeing and stopping everything as Markstrom was tonight, particularly at playoff time.

Bunting’s goal was also a goal-scorer’s goal off the rush — a perfectly-placed far-post snipe off of the bar and in from his off wing. His 14th of the season puts him on a 26-goal pace over 82.

Found wallet.

8.  The Nikita Zadorov hit on Ondrej Kase is going to dominate a lot of the post-game discussion. I have mixed feelings on it. It’s awful to see a player leave the game with a possible head injury, let alone one with Ondrej Kase’s concussion history.

It’s also a hockey play as opposed to something clearly malicious, Zadorov’s feet were grounded, his elbow was tucked in, and the principal point of contact — to my eye — was in the collarbone area with partial head contact. The size discrepancy between the players is a major factor here, obviously.

I can’t honestly pretend I’d be arguing it was anything but a clean hit with an unfortunate outcome if the sweaters were reversed.

Debate on the hit aside (it’s right in that grey area as far as hits to the head are concerned), it was a great immediate response from Morgan Rielly following the hit. We haven’t always seen that from this team.

9.  The good news about Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl is that they’re a good penalty-kill pairing; they box out, jam up lanes, and clear pucks well. The bad news is that, for a pairing that was such a reliable shutdown duo just a short time ago, it seems like we’re trending towards a permanent breakup at 5v5 unless it turns around soon.

With that possibility in mind, come playoff time, are we really okay with having half of the team’s second and third pairings comprised of rookies who have played one full season in the league (assuming it’s Sandin – Holl / Muzzin – Liljegren)?

The positives greatly outweigh the negatives from both young defensemen, including in tonight’s game, but we can’t be sitting here in a few months’ time and talking about the wonderful learning experience it’s going to be for those two after losing to Tampa in round one. This is win-now time.

Kyle Dubas is going to follow the “if you have time, use it” adage wisely in order to assess where on the roster he’s going to use up his gun powder before the trade deadline — I personally flip flop on it game by game — but the legwork has to be well underway on veteran D options, and not just of the 6/7 variety.

10.  Not every loss is a referendum on the team’s playoff viability. The Leafs just won six straight, and even the top teams lose goalie battles and make untimely mistakes that cost them games over the course of an 82-game schedule.

In terms of concerning trends in the bigger picture, it’s really about wanting a little more from the second line, quite a bit more from the second pairing, and hoping Campbell rediscovers his form sooner than later (he’s a .883 in 2022). The team’s performance at large was actually pretty good for about 50 minutes of this game.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Game Highlights: Flames 5 vs. Leafs 2