Following a full week of training camp at Ford Performance Centre, the Maple Leafs returned to the ice at Scotiabank Arena last night for their first and only simulated game before the start of the 2020-21 NHL regular season.
"The guys have put in lots of work, it feels really good to be here at Scotiabank Arena," said head coach Sheldon Keefe ahead of the Blue vs White game. "It feels more real just being in this building and we hope that can translate to the ice. NHL officials, televised game, all those kinds of things will add the necessary competitiveness that you would hope to get out of an exhibition setting."
In addition to three periods, the game included a shootout following the first and second periods, as well as a five minute 3-on-3 overtime period. "We want to give our guys proper opportunity to practice it and try to do it in game settings as much as we can," said Keefe. "In a season where all of the points are going to remain in the division, the shootout, and overtime for that matter, are really important even more so."
Intensity was high right from the opening puck drop as both teams looked to set the pace and push each other in preparation for the start of the regular season. Captain John Tavares opened the scoring midway through the first period with a nifty move before tucking the puck up over Frederik Andersen's blocker side shoulder. Jimmy Vesey and Mac Hollowell picked up the assists on the goal and Team White headed to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Team White extended their lead to 2-0 early in the second as Ilya Mikheyev set up Adam Brooks for a one-timer chip in. Moments later, Auston Matthews picked up a loose puck and sprung Mitch Marner who made no mistake beating goaltender Aaron Dell with a top shelf wrist shot on the short side. Late in the frame, William Nylander restored a two-goal lead for Team White after redirecting a point shot from Mikko Lehtonen. The score was 3-1 heading into the third period.
The pair connected again halfway through the third period, capitalizing on a power play opportunity as Lehtonen sauced a pass over to Nylander who unleashed a one-timer from the hash marks to make it 4-1 for Team White. Team Blue cut the deficit minutes later as Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews connected in the blue paint to bring things back within two. The scoring frenzy continued as Pierre Engvall used his speed and long reach to bury a bar down shot and give Team White a 5-2 lead. At the four-minute mark, Team Blue converted on a lucky bounce as Jason Spezza buried a shot that came right onto his stick off the back boards to make it 5-3. With just over a minute to go in the third period, Nick Robertson fired an absolute rocket from the slot past Aaron Dell to put Team White ahead 6-3.
Mikheyev put one home on a breakaway during the 3-on-3 overtime to seal a 7-3 win for Team White.
The Maple Leafs kick off the 2021 regular season this Wednesday, January 13th at 7:00 PM against the Montreal Canadiens.