written by Anthony Petrielli and Alec Brownscombe

In a game that had everything, the Maple Leafs coughed up a 5-1 lead, came back from 6-5 down late in the third period, and lost in three-on-three overtime, falling a point further behind Florida in the Atlantic Division title race but gaining one on Boston, who lost to Detroit tonight.

Where to even begin with this one?

Your game in 10:

1.   We have talked about the Leafs’ starts to games a lot in this space, and it should be noted that save for two plays, they had an excellent beginning to this game. There was a good scoring chance to start the game for Auston Matthews followed by an Ilya Mikheyev breakaway. Matthews put another good shot on net on his next shift, and the third and fourth lines generally tilted the ice to start.

Amidst all of that, Morgan Rielly got beat badly by Mason Marchment for a scoring chance, and TJ Brodie turned the puck over and took a penalty. Outside of those two moments, the Leafs actually did have a bright start to this game, but an early penalty and power-play goal will grab the attention in this one. Even right after the Panthers scored, though, Michael Bunting came back for an excellent scoring chance right away.

2.   Florida won the faceoff on their first power play and never looked back. That was a tough thrown-in-the-deep-end moment for Jake Muzzin coming back from injury. Alexsander Barkov slipped a cross-ice pass by Muzzin even though he was semi-cornered, and then he got it back and beat him clean with a move before setting up Sam Reinhart for what was basically a tap-in for him.

The goal wasn’t specifically on Muzzin (Mitch Marner also was beaten by the pass, and Justin Holl could have done better tying up his man in front of the net), but it is a tough ask of a defenseman on his third shift back from injury.

On the Panthers’ second power play, Muzzin had a really nice shot block in front on a Mackenzie Weegar point shot to help end what was the Panthers’ best chance on that power play, but Muzzin and Holl ended up on the ice for three power-play goals against in this game.

3.   The first period of this game set the tone for a wild night in general. Both teams were trading grade-A chances. There were some hits of significance. The crowd was buzzing. There were a number of scrums and chatter happening between the benches. When the buzzer finally went off, we all needed to go outside for a cigarette.

Before the period ended, the Leafs got their second power play of the night and managed to tie it up. Last month, we spoke about their power play and how the Leafs throw different looks at the opposition throughout a game. On the first power play, Mitch Marner played the half-wall. On the power play leading to the 1-1 goal, it was William Nylander, who saw some time on both sides. The puck eventually made its way to #88, who one-timed a bomb to tie the game.

The puck movement on the whole power play was super crisp, as was the work John Tavares and Marner down low to constantly retrieve the puck back and keep the play alive in the offensive zone.

4.   If the first period was a horse race, the first half of the second period was a one-way street. The Leafs scored on each of their first three shots in the opening two minutes. Let’s talk about what happened with each.

The first two were scored by Mitch Marner inside a 37-second span, and the first of those two was goal-of-the-year calibre. Shorthanded in a battle against one of the better defensemen in the league, he beat Mackenzie Weegar cleanly and absolutely danced Sergei Bobrovsky. That goal will be in his top-10 career highlights.

The second goal… will not. It was a wrist shot that beat Bobrovsky cleanly with very little screen and no deflection. Good for Marner that he has that confidence to even shoot there, but if you’re Florida, it’s an awful goal against.

Marner is up to 17 points in his last seven games, with every single one being a multi-point game. Whatever planet Matthews is on right now, Marner has also set up a home there.

5.  Shortly after, the Leafs scored yet again with the type of goal where they really took advantage of a high-flying Florida team. An offensive juggernaut that does not mind trading chances, when Florida is down a couple of goals, the game opens right up. The Leafs, it appeared at the time anyway, completely buried them.

The Leafs are not a team to trade chances with, but the Panthers were happy to oblige. Colin Blackwell – who has been a nice fit on the team’s fourth line in general with the speed and jam to his game – did well to drive the net. Morgan Rielly made a gorgeous play and pass for a tap-in, ending Bobrovsky’s night.

If that wasn’t enough, Jake Muzzin made it 5-1 roughly six minutes later as the Leafs’ top line set up in the offensive zone as though they were on a power play, passing it around until Muzzin walked down the wall and ripped a bomb.

Earlier in the season, Muzzin had a few of that type of play where he hit the post or crossbar, but he made no mistake on this one, catching Spencer Knight deep and beating him easily.

6.  Everything was coming up Leafs halfway through this game – to the point where you were waiting to see if a shoe was going to drop in the tired back-to-back situation. Florida created a ton of chances on the power play and scored three times. On Reinhart’s second power-play goal of the night, the Leafs had three penalty killers battling for one puck on the wall. Needless to say, if three PKers are going to engage in a battle for the puck, they have to win that battle. They didn’t, leading to a down-low 2v1 and a high-end skill team like the Panthers made them pay.

7.   Erik Kallgren got off to a fairly solid start to this game with some nice early saves, and he couldn’t be blamed all that much for either of the first two goals – although his body language after the second goal suggested he thought he should have done better.

What nobody will excuse is the third goal. At 5-2, the game was generally in hand for the Leafs, but a slapshot from just inside the blue line off of a shorthanded rush with no deflection by Radko Gudas (!) is just inexcusably bad. There’s really nothing else to say there.

At 5-2, the game was in control. At 5-3, to give up a goal like that with over a full period to go, it was clearly game on; we were all thinking it at that point.

Shortly after, Kallgren was unfortunately injured, and a cold Jack Campbell had to enter a game that was absolutely bonkers already. He had no chance when Huberdeau made a perfect saucer pass to Claude Giroux in front, but much like the second goal, the play stemmed from the Leafs failing to win a battle along the wall in the defensive zone.

8.   Entering the third period up 5-4, the Leafs were facing a big task trying to settle a game down that was already half off the rails against a rested Panthers team at home. The first couple of shifts of the third period were sufficiently low-key, but their early-period efforts were undone by a Kyle Clifford penalty in the neutral zone.

It feels like the slashing-the-stick call is called too liberally in this league, and it’s especially tough when a player is barely holding onto the stick one-handed and it doesn’t even break. It ended up being a bad look for a player who is in the lineup to provide some energy/physicality and to not cost his team defensively or by taking penalties in key moments.

We have spoken about this in this space before, but it doesn’t seem to go well when Clifford plays a stretch of consecutive games as opposed to entering the lineup to give the team a shot in the arm every couple. That said, this was a tough call to go against him, and it’s noteworthy that the refs missed the exact same infraction later by Sam Bennett on Michael Bunting.

On the subsequent PK, a failed clear by Mitch Marner followed by an aggressive puck-chase by Jake Muzzin left an outnumbered Holl in no man’s land on the pass across, and it was again far too easy at the net-front for the Panthers’ top PP unit.

9.  From there, the Leafs were mostly holding on for dear life, and it seemed inevitable the Panthers would take the lead, which happened five minutes later. Off of a lost defensive-zone draw, it was the fourth goal against for Jake MuzzinJustin Holl in the game (first at even-strength), although this was on Auston Matthews, who was caught puck watching and let his man go off the lost draw in Aleksander Barkov, the eventual goal scorer. Jack Campbell took an awkward fall-forward approach to the save that took him out of position somewhat.

10.  The resilience in the immediate pushback from the top line when down 6-5 was really encouraging. Auston Matthews had a glorious one-time look that he fired wide (Spencer Knight may have gotten a piece of it), and then he had a wide-open net that he couldn’t quite corral a loose puck into as the Leafs buzzed the Panthers’ zone in search of an equalizer.

It was starting to get late without an equalizer, and the Leafs wasted a power play where they looked like they had tired legs and tired brains with their inability to gain the zone without turning it over just inside the offensive blue line. You wondered if they were out of fumes to run on, but it was the kind of game where Leafs just needed to dig deeper and keep playing because there always seemed to be another twist around the corner.

Immediately after a game-saving toe save by Jack Campbell on a point-blank chance for Claude Giroux, Pierre Engvall — who looked fresh out there right to the end — again manufactured a game-changing play by winning a foot race against Robert Hagg, breaking in on Knight, and drawing a penalty. Late in that power play, Mitch Marner made a good pass out of the corner and John Tavares willed it in over top of Knight to tie the game and force overtime (more good work from those two down low on the power play).

Three-on-three overtime was mostly dominated by the Panthers, but there was one major chance of note for Tavares where he appeared to be hooked as he went to finish on his backhand with the goalie beat. Marner and Matthews hardly touched the puck on their shifts, and having played 24-25 minutes apiece in a back-to-back situation (not ideal), they didn’t have much left to give.

All in all, a wild game where the Leafs made a mockery of another elite opponent and then themselves before showing the resilience to gut out a point in spite of it all.  In the circumstances, it’s difficult to be anything but encouraged by this back-to-back in the state of Florida following the convincing wins over this same Panthers team and the Bruins earlier in the week.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Game Highlights: Panthers 7 vs. Leafs 6 (OT)