It’s not the result the Maple Leafs wanted, but if they play like this more often than not, they will beat a lot of good teams in the league.

The Leafs should have beaten a good team tonight — they scored four goals at 5v5 — but twice they gave up goals within the final 10 seconds of a period and their special teams were putrid as (0/4 on the power play, and 3/5 on the penalty kill).

And yet they held a 4-2 lead with under three minutes left.

Your game in 10:

1.   The first period was a 0-0 battle, but it was two good teams going back and forth, creating some chances and basically holding serve. The Leafs started with the new fourth line for a decent shift, but then the top line with Tyler BertuzziAuston MatthewsPontus Holmberg started building a bit of momentum.

There was an early sequence where the Hurricanes went on a 2v1, but it looked offside to me live, and because they didn’t score or really create anything off of it, we never got a good replay of the sequence to confirm. Jake Guentzel also had a chance off the rush, but Ilya Samsonov did well to challenge him and make a nice save. Afterward, Bobby McMann just missed Max Domi with a breakaway pass, an early sign of things to come in a game where the Leafs created a ton of breakaways.

Within the early back and forth, the Leafs eventually earned a power play, but they did nothing with it. They were too cute passing it around instead of shooting with traffic, and the new unit didn’t really look connected. Eventually, John Tavares took a penalty on that power play to make it 4v4. 

It was a bad penalty, but the Leafs killed it off, and shortly after, Tavares drew a power play to make up for it. Again, the top unit did nothing with the opportunity. The best chance was via the second unit as Bertuzzi ripped a pass at Nick Robertson, who was all alone in the slot but couldn’t bear down with his finish.

Their power play was 0/2 on the night at this point, and then Conor Dewar took an offensive-zone penalty on a rather soft call. The Leafs did a good job killing it as they pressured well and the Hurricanes didn’t really create anything of substance. Shots were 9-9 after one period, and both power plays were 0/2.

2.   To start the second, the Hurricanes started applying more pressure, but the Leafs held firm in their own zone and eventually counterattacked to open the scoring.

One of the big stories in this game was the Leafs’ defending of odd-man rushes. There were a few 2v1s or odd-man breaks that the Leafs’ defense was really aggressive defending and able to snuff out without even giving up a shot on net. On the first goal of the game, the Hurricanes were forming a 3v2, and TJ Brodie aggressively stepped up and snuffed out the odd-man rush. It caused a rushed pass that went behind a Hurricane, hit his skate, and bounced to Brodie, who realized Tavares was all the way up the ice — he was previously deep in the zone — and was wide open for a breakaway pass.

In all alone, Tavares did well to change his shot angle at the last second and rip it far side off the bar and in. It was a great finish by Tavares for his 21st goal of the season.

3.    Another big story in this game was the Leafs winning neutral-zone battles and forcing turnovers. They were rewarded to make it 2-0.

The end result was a beautiful William Nylander breakaway, going forehand-backhand and roofing it home, but it started with Max Domi battling at center for a loose puck after a bad pass by Morgan Rielly gave him no chance to do much of anything. He kept the play alive, the puck was poked back to Rielly, and because the defenseman had engaged Domi on the wall around center, Nylander had tons of space to slip behind the battle. Rielly moved it up to Nylander, who went all alone with a tidy finish 1v1.

4.   Shortly afterward, the Hurricanes went to a power play with a chance to get back into the game, but the Leafs’ penalty kill created all the chances.

In the two minutes, Nylander went on a 2v1 that could have been a 3v1 if Ilya Lyubushkin had not changed off, which seemed to trip up Nylander, who shot it short side high and missed the net. Bobby McMann went on a breakaway where he just missed the net, and Auston Matthews broke in on a 1v1 and ripped a shot that just missed. The Leafs didn’t score, but it seemed to build some momentum.

Back at five-on-five, Nick Robertson scored to make it 3-0. If you watch the sequence in its entirety, Robertson was rewarded for a big backcheck. When the Hurricanes had a chance for an odd-man rush with clear possession, Robertson put his head down and came back hard to disrupt it. Timothy Liljegren sent the puck back up ice on the turnover as John Tavares was again all alone after the Hurricanes’ defense changed under the assumption that they had possession.

The puck bounced on Tavares, so he couldn’t control it for a breakaway and had to stop up and curl. Robertson kept hustling up the ice after causing the original turnover and was rewarded when Tavares found him.

We’ve seen this before from Robertson: a scratch followed by offense in his first game back. He’s done this at least three times now this season, providing a real spark when his number is called. It remains to be seen if he’ll be a regular at this rate (realistically, that’s unlikely), but it’s a nice spark plug to have in the team’s back pocket.

5.   At 3-0, the Leafs kept pushing and almost made it a 4-0 game as William Nylander and Bobby McMann teamed up for a good forecheck to create a turnover before Nylander found Max Domi at the backdoor, where he one-timed it but was robbed.

The Hurricanes came down the ice on the next shift and scored. It was an innocent enough play at the start as they flipped the puck in from center, but it bounced and landed in the slot area, where TJ Brodie and Jake McCabe couldn’t coral the bobbling puck. The Hurricanes poked it free and rimmed it up to the point, where Brent Burns took a point shot that seemed to handcuff Ilya Samsonov from distance.

It was blocker side, and ideally, you’d like to see Samsonov either catch it against the blocker or punch it out to the corner, but it just hit him and dropped right in front of the crease. Because Matthews pushed up ice, Holmberg was the first man back and assumed center responsibilities, so he was covering Jordan Martinook in front, but instead of tying him up, he was spinning in a blender looking for the puck (not the play there). Martinook easily banged home the rebound.

The Leafs nearly made it 4-0 moments earlier, but at 3-1 with just under half the game to go, it was game on at this point.

6.   The Leafs did make some pushes to get their three-goal lead back. Notably, Bobby McMann made a nice play off the rush to feed Matthews, who had a one-handed deflection go off the post, and Ilya Lyubushkin ripped a nice slap-pass for a high tip in the slot by Noah Gregor. Samsonov also stonewalled Guentzel on a Seth Jarvis pass in tight.

Late in the period, the Hurricanes possessed the puck in the offensive zone, where Dmitry Orlov looked like he tripped himself up more than Jake McCabe tripped him, but the refs called it.

Right off the draw, Conor Dewar went on a breakaway, and it appeared he was obstructed, impacting his ability to get the shot off. Naturally, with 2.7 seconds left, the Hurricanes scored to make it a 3-2 game.

The Leafs’ penalty kill has to better protect the critical areas as TJ Brodie left the front of the net to challenge the half-wall possession that Dewar was already challenging. When the puck was slid into the slot, Guentzel one-timed it, and Jarvis — who Brodie left to pressure the half-wall — put the rebound home.

That’s two Hurricanes goals scored right at the top of the crease by banging in rebounds, and it made it a game all of a sudden going into the third. The Leafs have to show better situational awareness there and defend the critical areas to close a period.

7.   The Hurricanes almost scored to start the third as they again worked it back to the point, where Jalen Chatfield had all day to walk in, which he did before the puck went off the post. A good fourth-line shift later, the Leafs found their insurance marker. 

Again, the Leafs capitalized on a neutral-zone turnover by the Hurricanes as an errant pass went to Morgan Rielly skating back and Rielly simply chipped it back up to David Kampf, who was in all alone. Kampf made a really subtle but nifty play to quickly shift gears and seemingly catch the goalie off-guard by shooting it sooner than expected, ripping it five-hole with a quick shot.

That goal gives Kampf a three-game point streak and his sixth of the season overall. If he’s going to play higher up in the lineup (as he has been of late), he has to produce. So far, he has.

8.    There were further opportunities for the Leafs to ice this game, but they simply didn’t capitalize. They went to a power play and created their best chances on it (in regulation), but they couldn’t get it over the line — specifically, there was a good Matthew Knies chance in the slot with time and space. There were some chances swapped back and forth — Holmberg, and a Fast chance shorthanded that the Leafs really shouldn’t have given up — but the most egregious missed chance was a Matthews opportunity to walk in all alone in the slot (he shot it wide).

The goalie came way out of the crease to challenge, and if Matthews slid it to Bertuzzi — who was all alone on the post — it was a tap-in, but Matthews is the best scorer in the world, so you can never really fault him for shooting. Still, he missed the net altogether.

As the game wound down, it felt all but over, and then the game-management refereeing reared its head. There’s no planet where Kampf’s “hook” was a penalty. I hate getting into the refereeing in this space, but it’s a terrible call that swung this game.

The Hurricanes pulled their goalie for the 6v4, and the Leafs’ first unit did a good job killing it off with Bobby McMann and William Nylander on the ice, but Auston Matthews and Connor Dewar didn’t do nearly as good of a job protecting the house. The Hurricanes scored on a high tip; Orlov had all day to look for it, and he found a wide-open Guentzel in the high slot, where he got the first piece of the puck before it made it through to Aho at the backdoor for a tap-in to make it 5-4.

9.   Still up a goal and now back to full strength, I didn’t understand Keefe’s choices at this point in the game. He followed up the goal with a line of McMann – Tavares – Nylander — presumably thinking they would take a 40-second shift and he’d close with another unit — but they never got off the ice. He can’t risk it at that point in the game.

Kampf was rested; he was just in the box on the terrible call, but he was fresh at this point. He’s supposed to be the stopper in these situations, but instead, he was watching on the bench as Tavares was in front of Samsonov screening the goalie while the Hurricanes tied it. It was another shot for a deflection to a Canes player whose stick was wide open.

There was also a point in the sequence where the puck flipped to center, but somehow, no Leaf came off the ice. At a minimum, Nylander has to switch off on the right wing. Instead, he was absolutely gassed and didn’t close the angle well. The whole five-man unit was tired.

It was understandable to have other options Keefe could close the game with — Matthews and Dewar — off the ice to start the faceoff knowing they were just on, but not Kampf. And they certainly should’ve been at least able to make a partial change to get fresh legs on the ice at some point. It was really poorly done by the Leafs all around.

10.   The Leafs dominated overtime but couldn’t finish. Max Domi went on a breakaway, and the team went to a 4v3 power play, where they missed Mitch Marner. That’s where you’re looking for Matthews to shoot until his arms can’t move, and the best way to do it is to have Marner feed him pucks as we have become accustomed to seeing.

The power play lacked purpose; it was hard to figure out what they were trying to create. Matthews looked gassed at that point, but they originally started with a Matthews, Nylander, Bertuzzi, and Rielly unit. When they didn’t score, Bertuzzi and Rielly were subbed for Domi and Tavares.

It didn’t work, but at the end, Rielly also had a chance in the slot, where he ripped it wide. They had chances, but they didn’t score, forcing a shootout. While I’m not going to overanalyze a shootout, on principle alone, Nylander was 0/6 going into it and shot first again (and is now 0/7 on the season).

At what point does he no longer receive the tap on the shoulder to shoot? Some years, it doesn’t go a scorer’s way in shootouts. That seems to be happening this season for Nylander. The Leafs went 0/3 in the shootout overall, and it’s a big ask of your goalie to require perfection. Samsonov stood tall on the first two, but Jake Guentzel made a nice move on the third attempt to win the game.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Joe Bowen & Jim Ralph Game Highlights