Despite coming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game at 3-3, the Maple Leafs weren’t able to complete the comeback and dropped another game to a team at the bottom of the standings.

We’ve been through this song and dance with the Leafs several times this season against bottom-feeding teams (and the schedule situation — tired vs. rested — certainly didn’t help): They possessed the puck a lot, but they were guilty of some sloppy turnovers and decision-making that kept them behind the eight-ball and had them chasing the game for most of the night. Especially on the road in a tired situation, catch-up hockey is often losing hockey in the NHL, regardless of the opponent.

Your game in 10:

1.   The game started a little sloppily for the Leafs. Unlike the electrifying opening moments on Saturday against Montreal, Toronto started the game on their heels and looked like the tired team (which they were), with the Hawks generating a few early chances.

After the opening five minutes, the Leafs started to pick up some steam, primarily as a result of Auston Matthews’ physical play along the boards and soft hands slicing through the neutral zone, allowing the top line to generate some offensive-zone time.

2.   Despite the Leafs getting their legs back under them following a slow start, the Hawks struck first. Following a John Tavares OZ turnover, Chicago took off in transition. Patrick Kane cut to the middle of the ice and sent it across to Max Domi who was cutting up the middle. Domi dropped it back to Kane, who slowed down and let the play develop in front of him.

After Domi entered the zone with speed, Timothy Liljegren sagged off and afforded the time and space for Kane to patiently survey the ice and rip a shot through him and past Ilya Samsonov

A bit of a weird goal for Samsonov, who might’ve been screened partially by his own defender, but Liljegren also could’ve played a tighter gap on Kane after he handed Domi off to Mark Giordano on the rush defense.

3.   It didn’t take long for the Leafs to reply, and it all started with an incredible shift by Auston Matthews.

As the Hawks came in on the rush, Matthews sprawled to defend a cross-ice pass. After regaining his feet, he grabbed the puck and drew a penalty before dominating the shift with the delayed man advantage.

The Hawks eventually touched the puck and officially started the power play, where it took Toronto just nine seconds to convert. After the Hawks won the faceoff and rang the puck behind the net, Matthews raced to it and worked it back to William Nylander at the point. Nylander quickly swung the puck over to Morgan Rielly, who snapped a low shot on goal that was deflected in by Tavares in front. 

With an assist on the play, Morgan Rielly logged his 400th career point. Rielly currently sits fifth in Leafs’ history for points by a defenseman, and by the end of the season, he should threaten to surpass Ian Turnbull’s rank in the history books (414 points).

4.   The second period started off rather quietly; the Leafs were controlling the play a bit more, but there weren’t any significant chances generated on either side. That is until Kane’s second goal of the night restored Chicago’s lead.

Following another Leafs’ turnover — this time it was a defensive-zone giveaway as a Matthews pass evaded Justin Holl — Domi picked up the puck and found Kane heading downhill into the slot. 

As Kane patiently glided into a dangerous area, this time Rielly played Kane a little loosely while Samsonov bit on a fake shot while sliding laterally. Kane waited for Samsonov to open up and slid the puck through the wickets for his second of the night.

5.   Kane wasn’t done tormenting the Leafs. Chicago entered the zone with a 4v3 rush, and the initial shot from Connor Murphy was stopped, but the rebound rattled around and bounced to Kane at the side of the goal. With Samsonov scrambling, Kane calmly skated below the goal line, where he kept his hips open to the middle of the ice, backed away behind the goal, and he saw an opening to bank the puck off of Samsonov. 

At first, it wasn’t quite clear if the puck completely crossed the line, but after review, there was no question that Kane scored a hat trick goal and extended the Hawks’ lead to 3-1. A scrambly bit of goaltending from Samsonov on this one.


6.   Down by two, the Leafs were in need of a spark. Fortunately, they were able to get one from their depth pieces as one of their new acquisitions was the one to make a play. 

Noel Acciari scored his first as a Leaf on a play that came thanks in large part to the work of David Kämpf. After Alex Kerfoot threw a shot on goal from the side boards that Acciari deflected up high over the traffic in front, Kämpf reached up, grabbed it out of the air, and dropped it on the ice in front of him, before immediately swatting the puck back toward the slot. The puck crawled out front right to Acciari in front, where he made no mistake swatting it into the net.

7.   Even outside of the goal to bring the Leafs back within one, I thought new Leaf Noel Acciari had a very nice game for the second night in a row. Whether it’s defending the cycle, pressing on the forecheck, or killing penalties, Acciari is a fierce competitor who has a high win percentage in his puck battles in the trenches. It translates into an ability to force his way into the hard areas of the ice to score goals as well.

11 goals and 19 points in 56 games this season, all of which have been recorded at even strength or shorthanded, is nothing to shake a stick at. A sorely needed addition to the team’s bottom-six mix, the value of Acciari’s consistent work ethic and simple but effective game shined through in this game on a team that was showing the effects of a tired situation.

The fourth line with Acciari, ZAR, and Kerfoot posted a 93% xGF and outshot the opposition 7-1 at five-on-five.

8.   It didn’t feel like the Leafs opened the final stanza with a tremendous sense of urgency. Sure, they were pushing a little bit for offense, but there wasn’t an abundance of energy on display. The effects of playing on the second half of a back-to-back with travel seemed to be weighing on them. Enter a perfectly-executed set play by two of the Leafs’ offensive leaders.

Mitch Marner hit the red line and turned on the gas, heading full steam ahead toward the Chicago zone. Rielly identified the set-play opportunity in motion and fired the puck all the way down the ice for a bank pass off the end boards. Marner picked it up in the right circle and cut across the net for a beauty finish to even things up.

9.   Mitch Marner nearly scored a second goal just moments later, ripping a one-timer off the post as a Hawks defender barely got a stick in the way to disrupt the shot slightly. Toronto continued to generate chances, and while they couldn’t get another shot past Jaxson Stauber, it felt like if they stuck with it, they were going to find their way through in this game.

However, they perhaps pushed a little too hard and forced it in search of a game-winner as a four-man rush attempt came back to haunt them for the game-losing goal.

After a cross-ice pass went right through the lower slot, the puck bounced off the corner and onto the stick of Cole Guttman, who took off in transition with three Leaf forwards and TJ Brodie caught deep. With Conor Timmins caught a little bit in between when defending the 2v1, Guttman took his opportunity and ripped it home past Samsonov for his first career NHL goal.

10.   The Leafs pressed for an equalizer to no avail as the Hawks added an empty-netter to ice the game and win by a score of 5-3. The inability to win the season series over either Columbus (1-1) or Chicago (1-1) has been a little frustrating this month as the Leafs have collected just four of the eight points on offer. That said, Toronto didn’t look entirely lifeless like they did in the final 40 minutes against the Blue Jackets a week ago.

Samsonov — coming off or still battling an illness, mind you — didn’t have a great game, and the Leafs needed a save on at least one of the goals he allowed. Stauber put together a pretty nice game for the Hawks at the other end, saving 1.46 goals above expected in this one. 

The Rasmus Sandin minor injury forcing TJ Brodie over to the left with Conor Timmins on a makeshift pairing — and Morgan Rielly to pair off with Justin Holl — didn’t help matters, but another area to keep an eye on was the team’s third line of David Kampf, Pierre Engvall, and Calle Jarnkrok getting outshot 7-1 and outscored 1-0 at five-on-five after a good night for this line against Montreal.

While none of these teams are world-beaters, the likes of the Sabres, Kraken, and Wild do present more quality depth than any of the Habs, Blackhawks, or Blue Jackets teams we’ve seen recently. We’ll keep an eye on whether Ryan O’Reilly is given a look at third-line center with John Tavares back in the middle at some point.

Heatmap: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts