It all came full circle for the Toronto Maple Leafs last night.
After suffering the embarrassment of giving up the game to the younger and less experienced Anaheim Ducks over a month ago, they delivered an exceptional performance which saw the Leafs shut out the Ducks with a 7 – 0 win.
That previous game was a lesson to the Leafs and the games which have followed have looked like a road to redemption for the team. What they showed on Tuesday night was what they’ve should’ve done in October.
The billowing tempest of the Maple Leafs erupted from the first minutes of the game.
The first goal came at almost the 2-minute mark when Timmins pulled the puck around the Leafs’ goal and smacked it over to Engvall who was skating down the left wing of the rink. He looked for the cross and found Kerfoot waiting dead centre with the Ducks’ goal.
The cross connected and Kerfoot launched the puck under Gibson to make it 1 – 0.
Goal 2 came off the back of a Face Off. Initially the Ducks won the puck back but it was quickly scooped up by Timmins and expertly passed to Marner who skated towards a crowded goal. Waiting in the pocket was Tavares snuggled in tight with the goalie.
Marner waited for the very last moment and delivered the puck for a quick tap from Tavares to put it in the basket.
The disappointing start clearly showed for the Ducks with 2 2-second penalties awarded to the Leafs in the opening of the Second Period. The Ducks did look like they were ready to play and managed to plug the gaps in their defence. It wouldn’t last though.
On the 12th minute, Matthews rushed the Duck’s right wing but could go no further. He switched around and fired the puck back to Timmins who got his third assist of the game when he passed from centre to Brodie on the left.
Brodie could only see skates and sticks but there was a pocket big enough to deliver the puck fast and low into the bottom right hand corner. Leafs were up 3 – 0.
Four or so minutes later and the fourth goal was heading into Ducks’ net. A scramble around the Ducks’ net and Tavares had to take the scoop the puck up to Holl, who managed a pass to Holl and then to Marner who decided to take a smack on goal.
The deflection off the goalie landed in the perfect conditions for Bunting who was waiting poised to deliver the puck behind the net.
The Ducks’ heads were down as the game entered the Third Period. While they made a solid attempt in the opening, the Leafs’ defence was too strong and the counter-attack was punishing.
Holmberg skated the puck up to the Ducks’ lines, delivering a nice piece of one-two play to find Giordiano on the left wing. He was looking for team-mates when he caught sight of Kerfoot in the centre. He passed and Kerfoot hammered the puck past Gibson to make it 5 – 0.
The sixth goal would come off Leafs’ stealing the puck from the Ducks’ defence when they tried to clear it. Holmberg snatched the puck up and passed it to centre, to Sandin’s stick. Noticing the goal was too busy, he passed right to Engvall who delivered the puck nice and low into the left-hand pocket of the goal.
With only 2 or so minutes left on the clock, the game was well and truly called. A fight in the Ducks’ half to keep possession led Holmberg to set the puck free across the ice. The deflection off the wall landed on Sandin’s stick, who proceeded to take a chance at goal.
He was unlucky with the crowd of sticks and skates forming in Ducks’ goal. But much to his surprise, Anderson was in the right place at the right time to collect the rebound and make it 7 – 0. This was Anderson’s first goal with Leafs since March 2020.
Speaking after the final buzzer went, the Maple Leafs Captain, John Tavares, said the game showed how much the team had come together.
‘I think we’ve just really come together with the identity of the team, and how difficult we have to be to play against… I think we really just slowed them down and made it difficult for them to get to the neutral zone and establish any kind of offensive game.
‘Just sound play as a five-man unit and [them] having to come through all of us, and then that led to a lot of good offence. Good to see all lines contribute — a lot of guys chipping in, making plays, and putting the puck in the net as well.”
Toronto Maple Leafs now sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference while the Ducks have their 3rd straight loss and sit bottom of the Western Conference.
Leafs face the New York Rangers on Thursday, their first meeting of the season. It’s going to be a tough one. Looking at head-to-head statistics, the Rangers lead the Leafs by 25 wins compared to 18.
Ducks go on to face the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. This will also be their first meeting of the season. Ducks lead the Canadiens by 12 game wins compared to 8 in their past meetings.