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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Kings - 11/02/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings Thursday at Staples Center:

by Adam Proteau Proteautype /

1. Kings jump ahead early, pad lead shortly thereafter as Leafs struggle with bad luck, special teams. The Leafs were playing their third in a four-game West Coast road trip - and second game in as many nights after beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 Wednesday - and were hampered by bad luck to begin Thursday's contest: the first goal of the night came when Toronto blueliner Jake Gardiner slipped on the ice and turned the puck over to winger Tanner Pearson, who passed it to centre Michael Amadio - and Amadio beat goalie Curtis McElhinney at the 2:54 mark of the opening frame.

Two minutes and 24 seconds after Amadio's first goal of the year, the Kings added to their lead on the power play via winger Mike Cammalleri's third of the season. The Leafs were outshot by the Kings 9-1 at one point, but they settled down in the second half of the first period and came close to getting on the scoresheet before the first intermission. Still, their offence was unable to beat netminder Jonathan Quick in the first 20 minutes - and they failed to capitalize on two power plays - and another series of defensive breakdowns led to the home team making it 3-0 on Trevor Lewis' goal with 35.5 seconds left in the first.

It very nearly was 4-0, but Kings winger Andy Andreoff missed an open Leafs net by shooting wide of the inside corner and past McElhinney. It certainly wasn't a situation you could pin on the Leafs goalie, but a combination of misfortune, struggling special teams and lack of care with the puck put Toronto in a major hole with 40 minutes of regulation time ahead of them.

2. Toronto comes close to scoring in second, but Kings add to advantage on power play. Toronto's offence has the capacity to get it back into games where they trailed by two or three goals, and the Leafs had stretches in the second period where they were threats to cut into L.A.'s lead. However, the Buds' problems when it comes to penalties extended into this game, as Toronto took three consecutive penalties starting in the middle of the second; the Kings scored on the second of the three straight minors - with winger Tyler Toffoli scoring his sixth of the season at 14:31 - to boost their lead to 4-0.

To make matters worse, Toffoli added his second of the game 2:02 later to give L.A. a five-goal advantage. As the end of the period loomed, they looked tired and unable to keep up with the Kings, but centre Auston Matthews would have something to say about that before the second intermission began.

3. Matthews dazzles late in middle frame with one-goal, two-point stretch that gives Leafs something to work with in third. Matthews led the Leafs in goal-scoring heading into Thursday's action, and he added to that lead by scoring his 10th of the year - his first-ever NHL penalty shot that ended in success at 17:50 of the middle period. But arguably the more impressive play came 2:08 later (with just 1.5 seconds left in the frame), when Matthews picked up the puck below the Kings' goal line, and, as he was being hooked by L.A. defenceman Drew Doughty, he swivelled around in the blink of an eye and made a perfect pass to charging Leafs D-man Morgan Rielly.

Rielly did not miss his shot, and scored his second goal of the year on the play. Matthews' assist was No. 8 for the sophomore, and as the third period began, Toronto's deficit was down to three goals. It was a terrific example of how many different ways Matthews can impact a game.

4. Buds cut into Kings' lead with power play marker toward midpoint of third. After Matthews' late-second-period impact, the Leafs were hoping to score early in the third, then claw their way toward tying it before regulation-time ended. Toronto got what it was looking for when Pearson was called for a slash on winger Connor Brown 6:29 into the third, and Brown deflected Jake Gardiner's point shot past Quick on the ensuing power play.

The marker was Brown's fifth of the year and second in as many games, and it gave Toronto exactly 12 minutes to try and score twice more to send the game to overtime.

5. Leafs push L.A. in final minutes of third, but can't tie it.
The Leafs turned up the heat on the Kings in the last minutes of the third period, and nearly got their fourth goal of the night with McElhinney pulled for the extra skater and L.A. called for another penalty that became an automatic penalty shot (blueliner Jake Muzzin knocked the net off with 1:19 left in the frame). Once again, Matthews took the penalty shot, but on this occasion, he fired the puck wide of Quick, and the home team held on to beat the Leafs.

Toronto's record falls to 8-5-0, and their final game of the road trip takes place Saturday against the Blues, who lead the Western Conference with a 10-3-1 mark (that includes a 5-1-0 record at home). To salvage a .500 mark on the road swing, the Leafs will need to cut down on their penalties and eliminate slow starts and teams jumping on them repeatedly and in quick bursts. Their offence is almost certainly going to get them three or more goals, but if their defence can't hold up its end of the bargain, the results won't be positive.

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