Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after the Maple Leafs’ 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche which dropped the team’s record to 21-11-8.

On where the game got away from the team after leading 3-0:

It starts with the first goal. We stopped playing. We stopped playing and gave them a freebie.

First of all, in the first period, we had one line going. The score was not indicative of what the period was like. They were in our zone twice as much as we were in theirs. We were defending too much. Their best people were dominating play.

We had to get better in the second period. We didn’t. Not only did we not, but we gave them life by giving them penalties.

The first one is a gift where we just stopped playing. You just can’t do these things. It was similar the other night when the penalty kill hurt us. It can’t happen.

On why he moved William Nylander up to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner’s line:

You guys are watching the game. When MacKinnon’s line is out there with Makar and Toews, the calibre of play is not the NHL. It is another league. I didn’t think we were handling that very well. I just thought putting our best people together and going best-on-best, giving us a chance to keep the puck away from those guys a little bit more, could help us.

At the same time, I am trying to get more out of Willy. Willy, on his line, was not good. That line was not good for us at all tonight. I don’t know if they had one good shift that I can remember. I had to get Willy away from that.

All of those things just kind of fit.

On Auston Matthews taking a cross-check that went uncalled in the third period:

The ref told me he didn’t get cross-checked but that he fell by himself into the boards. Those are my feelings, I guess. He didn’t get cross-checked.

On whether the performance is more disappointing given it is a measuring-stick game:

To me, there are a couple of things.

If you are going to win this game and compete against that team, especially when they are shorthanded as they are with the injuries and such, you have to be even or better on special teams and you have to be even or better against their best players.

If you let their power play give them an advantage and if their best players outplay ours, you are in tough. You are not going to beat that team.

We didn’t win the special teams. You saw what their best people did tonight. It is tough to win.

As much as the Domi line got us going in the first period, you need the whole game. The top group they have is big time. Even when shorthanded, those guys are driving everything. They are tilting the ice. To me, we were not able to manage that well enough.

We were not able to get the fourth goal. As much as you are up 3-0, that is not a comfortable lead against that team. You know they can score. After they had the puck as much as they did in the first period, I knew our game had to get better. It didn’t.

We made mental mistakes tonight, and we had trouble connecting. We couldn’t even connect on a pass. Pucks were blowing up on us. We just weren’t sharp. When you are doing that, it is really hard to get anything built within your game. You could just feel momentum going the other way.

We were right there. With three minutes left, we make a mistake, and a top player in the league makes us pay for it.

On whether he has decided on a goalie for tomorrow:

Yeah. You’ll find out tomorrow.