The Vegas Golden Knights exacted revenge with a solid 6-2 win over Toronto, snapping the Leafs’ seven-game winning streak in the process.

A sleepy first period gave way to a middle frame in which Vegas scored three times, taking advantage of the Leafs‘ lapses in defensive coverage and a bad late-period turnover. After a decent start, the Leafs never really found their mojo again and struggled to get to the net in the offensive zone, eventually losing by a 6-2 final score.

Your game in 10:

1.    Before we jump into the first period, Timothy Liljegren‘s day-to-day injury meant that the Maple Leafs were forced to ice a defensive group with six left-shot defensemen. Some of the complications that the Leafs faced as a result (clearing pucks out of the zone and moving the puck between defensemen) became evident as the game went along, but it also had the effect of scrambling the D pairs that seemed to have found some chemistry during the Morgan Rielly suspension. Sheldon Keefe used several different looks tonight, one of which included the Rielly/Brodie pair, and it was not a good night for those two.

The first period started rather innocuously. The Leafs were generally controlling play to start, but Vegas settled into their game defensively and not a ton happened for the entirety of the 20 minutes. The Leafs’ fourth line of Pontus HolmbergDavid Kämpf, and Ryan Reaves — excellent all night — created Toronto’s first good chance, but Reaves was turned aside by Adin Hill in front of the net.

Jake McCabe made a fine sliding defensive play to dislodge the puck while defending a Vegas 2v1, and Ilya Samsonov helped deny Keegan Kolesar on what was Vegas’ best chance of the early going. There wasn’t much else to speak in the first 10 or so minutes of the opening period.

2.      The rest of the first period wasn’t terribly exciting, either, but the special teams got involved as the first period bled into the second. My only note before the first penalty of the game was an offensive look for Simon Benoit, created by nifty passing from Toronto’s William Nylander-led second line. Oddly enough, the all-defense Benoit had some of the Leafs’ best looks in this game, and you’d be right to infer it was a clear signal of an off-night for the Leafs’ best people offensively.

The game’s first infraction came in the later stages of the first period when Bobby McMann took an offensive-zone tripping penalty. This one was a good kill for the Leafs’ PK, with the best chance on the two-minute power play going to Toronto, a Mitch Marner and Kämpf combination that created a Kämpf chance in tight on Hill.

Vegas did generate one look after a bad giveaway by TJ Brodie, but Samsonov and Mark Giordano did their part to help shut it down and the two teams headed to the first intermission tied 0-0. MoneyPuck recorded the expected goals at 0.9-0.44 in favor of Toronto… it was a quiet period.

3.     The first good chance of the second period went to the Leafs when Max Domi found John Tavares near the net, but the captain shot it wide. Not long after, Brodie was whistled for a holding call during a scrum in the corner and the Leafs went back to the PK.

Toronto was able to kill this one off without much drama, and Ilya Samsonov was really sharp during this portion of the game. Samsonov has generally been effective since coming back from his time away from the team, but he’s remained a little noisy in net. Tonight, I thought Samsonov’s movements were much more efficient, poised, and measured early on.

Samsonov helped the Leafs kill off that second penalty, one that saw Marner nearly speed away on a breakaway when Alex Pietrangelo fanned on a shot at the point. Marner came out to snag the puck but just couldn’t poke it by the veteran defenseman. Alas, the Leafs had to settle for a second kill and a score that remained goalless as the game plodded toward the midway point of the contest.

4.    Both teams earned roughly one expected goal in MoneyPuck’s data when the first goal went in. After the penalty expired, Samsonov made a sprawling and flashy glove stop to keep the game scoreless, but there wasn’t a ton going on in general. Out of nowhere, a breakaway goal for Ivan Barbashev came moments after Domi was nearly able to tie the game.

The Leafs won an offensive-zone draw and tossed a puck on net, with the forwards crashing hard to recover the rebound. Domi was in the vicinity and nearly finished it off, but when Vegas recovered possession, Michael Amadio quickly identified that Barbashev was leaking out to center ice. He snuck behind the defense of Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie as both players were asleep at the wheel while Amadio found Barbashev in the clear. The playoff hero from last season for Vegas broke in on Samsonov and fit the puck through the netminder to break the ice.

5.     Simon Benoit had a second good chance of the game after play resumed; this one was a surprising chance of the rush variety where burned around the corner but was unable to make a move around the goalie. Only a few minutes later, the Golden Knights found the scoreboard again after another defensive lapse by the Maple Leafs.

A shot came in from the point off the stick of Shea Theodore and was deflected past Samsonov by Mason Morelli, who was left all alone in front of the net by Max Domi.

The defensive struggles of Domi have been well documented throughout his career as a downside you have to live with within his game, but this was a frustrating lapse. Every other Leaf in the defensive zone was tagged up and checking a man, but the center was near the corner spacing out while an opposition forward stood alone in front of the net, where he deflected a Theodore point shot into the net.

This was much like the first goal in the sense that an individual lapse or two proved lethal. It wasn’t like Vegas was dramatically outplaying Toronto, but they were capitalizing on defensive slipups.

6.      With Vegas ahead 2-0, the feel of the game changed and the Leafs needed a push. Before they knew it, though, they were back on the penalty kill after Bobby McMann sent a puck out of play from the defensive zone, incurring a delay-of-game infraction.

Yet again the Toronto PK did a good job handling this challenge, with my only note being about a shorthanded rush for Marner and then the Vegas PP’s early conclusion due to an interference call on Michael Amadio. There were only five seconds left in the Vegas man advantage, so it gave Toronto a sizable chunk of PP time once McMann was out of the box. The Leafs set Tyler Bertuzzi up down low with the puck, but he frustratingly looked to pass rather than take it hard to the net.

Nothing came of Toronto’s first PP, but Bertuzzi made up for it anyway, taking a quick look-off shot from the circle once play returned to 5v5. It deflected in off of the skate of Alec Martinez:

Bertuzzi now has goals in back-to-back games for the first time all season and has scored five in his past six games. This felt like the first lucky bounce he’s gotten around the net all season, and it came immediately after a hat-trick game. The Hockey Gods have an interesting sense of humour.

7.      After Bertuzzi’s goal made it 2-1 Vegas with just over 90 seconds to play in the second period, the closing sequence to the middle stanza was the defining stretch of the game. Rather than stacking strong shifts together and taking momentum from the goal into the intermission, the Leafs let Vegas regain the two-goal edge in an ugly, self-destructive fashion.

John Tavares recovered the puck on the backcheck and went into the corner against two Golden Knights forecheckers. A baffling decision to force the puck up the wall into a crowd on his backhand — a simple play on his forehand behind the net easily gets the team out of trouble — led to an ugly turnover to Jonathan Marchessault, who fed William Karlsson as he gained some separation from Auston Matthews. Karlsson’s shot found its way through the pads of Samsonov to make it 3-1.

Most will rightly criticize Tavares as a main culprit, but once the puck was up for grabs, I didn’t love the other Leafs standing around watching or the slow reaction defensively once Vegas won possession. The puck also went through Samsonov’s legs on a shot Karlsson got off quickly but didn’t exactly rip along the ice; this one is not “on” Samsonov, but goalies are allowed to make semi-challenging saves at important moments.

This was a whole new game at 2-1 going into the third, making it especially painful to concede in the final minute of a period. To make matters worse, it came with some $50 million worth of salary on the ice between the Brodie/Rielly pair (who were on the ice for their third goal against of the period) and a loaded-up line of Tavares/Matthews/Marner.

8.     The Leafs began to generate extended offensive-zone possession time early in the third period, although they struggled to turn it into A+ opportunities. Vegas’ ability to defend the slot and their net-front area, the bedrock of their Stanley Cup win this past spring, was on full display tonight. They are playing without top forwards Mark Stone and Jack Eichel, but they still have their entire defensive group from the Cup run healthy.

The Leafs were able to get positive shifts from their top lines and hem the Knights in, but there was not enough directed at the net and far too few second and third opportunities in this game. None of Matthews, Marner, or Knies generated a five-on-five shot on goal tonight.

The Golden Knights eventually added to their lead on a controversial play. Initially, a Leaf breakout attempt was batted down by Pietrangelo’s stick either at or a little above his shoulder level. Vegas nearly set up a shooting opportunity immediately, but the puck bounced on Marchessault, allowing Nylander to turn it up ice and out of the zone, but he was not hard enough on the puck and lost the puck battle.

When Marchessault got the better of Nylander and chipped it down the wall, Jake McCabe was now caught and William Karlsson had a free lane available to drive out front of the net. It led to a scramble that ended with Marchessault finishing into an empty net with Samsonov down and out.

Coming halfway through the third period to make it 4-1, this was the dagger goal. Even if it might’ve been difficult to conclusively prove that Pietrangelo’s stick was clearly above shoulder level (which is necessary to overturn a no-call on the ice), it was a curious decision not to throw a challenge at it knowing that it was close and the fourth goal meant it was all but game over at this stage.

9.      The Leafs did score one more time courtesy of a fourth line that continues to emerge as not just a positive energy/momentum source but a unit that can chip in a bit of secondary offense.

Ryan Reaves‘ work high in the defensive zone against Brayden McNabb — twice stuffing attempts to send it down the wall with his skates — pushed the puck out to center before Reaves outpaced McNabb in the subsequent foot race to create a 2v1 with Pontus Holmberg. Holmberg burst down the left side and showed good poise and patience in possession to wait until Reaves was in position before sending a perfect pass for a Reaves redirection past Adin Hill.

On a night with few positives for the Leafs, the fourth line was a bright spot, consistently tilting the ice in Toronto’s favour. Reaves, in particular, scored his third goal as a Leaf today, and he has been getting around the ice well while dutifully fulfilling his role of finishing checks and going to the net. Credit where it is due, he is by no means killing plays with the puck on his stick at the moment. It was a good burst of speed from #75 to create the 2v1 after a solid play on the D-zone half wall to kickstart the sequence.

10.      The Reaves goal made it 4-2 and cracked the door for a Leafs comeback briefly back open with 5.5 minutes remaining, but much of the chance to complete the comeback went out the window when Mitch Marner was called for a very marginal trip on the first shift after the goal. Vegas didn’t score on the power play, but they erased a significant chunk of the remaining time in the game. Sheldon Keefe continued to badger the refs and was sent to the dressing room by the ref in an odd instance of a game misconduct issued to a coach (with no accompanying bench minor).

Once the power play ended, the Leafs pulled the goalie and eventually gave up an empty netter, a shot from the Vegas defensive zone by Alex Pietrangelo that went all the way down and in after clipping a piece of Jonathan Marchessault, who got credit for the tally (Marchessault’s second of the game and 32nd of the season). An insult-to-injury goal by Nick Roy came off a rebound from a point shot as Vegas outworked a defeated Toronto side.

The final score was 6-2 in a game where the underlying metrics indicate a fairly even battle. Vegas was definitely the better team — not in terms of consistently dominating play, but they were more detail-oriented, limited their big mistakes, their best players showed more jump than the Leafs’, and they protected their net well. The Leafs got very little from their core tonight, didn’t keep it as clean defensively as many of their recent efforts (partly due to the blue-line shuffle caused by Liljegren’s absence), and their best winning streak in 20 years therefore ended with a whimper.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts