Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 6-5 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks Thursday at Air Canada Centre:
Persistent offensive-zone pressure, powerful power play – and Kadri’s huge game – gives Toronto the win.
The Leafs hadn’t scored a power play goal in their previous six games and the Ducks hadn’t surrendered a power play goal in their past eight prior to Thursday, but both of those streaks came to an end in a big way: Toronto scored three times in five man advantage opportunities, and centre Nazem Kadri – who hadn’t scored on the PP since November – was a factor in all three before scoring the game-winner 41 seconds into overtime.
Kadri gave the Buds their first lead of the game by scoring on the PP at 6:55 of the first, thanks to teammate Milan Michalek’s excellent quick-reaction pass in close on Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen. Kadri posted the primary assist on Tyler Bozak’s second goal of the night and added his third power play point of the game on Connor Brown’s marker before scoring in overtime, and finished the night with four points. The 25-year-old Kadri now has 27 helpers and 41 points in 71 games this season, and he’s one of the leaders in a young Leafs dressing room whose competitiveness and all-around skill aren’t unappreciated by head coach Mike Babcock and team management.
Excellent start erased by late-game offensive explosion by Anaheim, but Leafs were resilient.
Less than two minutes after defenceman Frank Corrado’s goal put the Leafs ahead 4-1 late in the second period, the Ducks scored twice in nine seconds to make it 4-3 entering the third period. And the visitors’ confidence grew from there, as Anaheim outshot Toronto 16-6 in the final frame, (and 38-26 on the night), got a shorthanded goal from Ryan Garbutt at 5:39 of the third on a turnover from Jake Gardiner, and a goal 2:38 later (Brandon Pirri’s 12th of the season) that put them up 5-4 on the Buds.
Anaheim was without some key players for different reasons – centre Ryan Kesler was home tending to a family emergency, while blueliner Kevin Bieksa played just 4:28 before leaving with an apparent injury – but they’re a Stanley Cup frontrunner in part because they’re one of the NHL’s most dangerous teams, and the Leafs were stunned when the Ducks hit them with all they had. Toronto had a two-game win streak going before this game, but with due respect, those wins came against Buffalo and Calgary. Anaheim is a far better test of what the Leafs have to do to build themselves into a Stanley Cup contender, and in beating the Ducks for the second time this season, the Buds showed the resilience they’d demonstrated in stretches earlier in the campaign.
Brown quietly puts together a points streak – and his first NHL goal.
Rookie winger Connor Brown was playing in his fourth career NHL game Thursday, but his assist on Kadri’s goal was his second in as many games – and after Pirri’s go-ahead goal, Brown roofed a backhand shot past goalie Frederik Andersen at 15:37 to even the score.
The 22-year-old Toronto native logged 14:27 of ice time against the Ducks, and his games in the NHL provide vital experience he’ll carry with him when he becomes an integral component of the American League Marlies’ playoff run this spring. But, like another local kid who scored his first as a Leaf Thursday (see below), he’ll never forget the goal he scored in this game.
Bozak makes big impact in return from injury.
Centre Tyler Bozak saw his first NHL action since he was injured Feb. 6 against Ottawa and missed 21 games, and he chipped in on offence right away, netting his 11th and 12th goals of the season. The first tied the game at a goal apiece at 4:01 of the first period, just 1:05 after Anaheim opened the scoring on Jamie McGinn’s 20th of the year; and the second – a power play marker – put Toronto ahead 3-1 at 8:58 of the middle frame.
Bozak, who averaged 17:32 in 47 games prior to the injury, now has 33 points – one more than he posted in 82 games during his sophomore NHL campaign in 2010-11 – and the 30-year-old is likely to be one of the veterans Babcock leans on the rest of this year and into next season.
Corrado’s killer shift starts with a big check, and ends with his first goal as a Leaf.
Blueliner Frank Corrado is still adjusting to life as a full-time NHLer, but in one second-period shift against the Ducks, he made a memorable impact in multiple ways. After rocking Anaheim D-man Cam Fowler with a massive bodycheck, Corrado capitalized on a Toronto rush and scored his first goal as a Leaf – and only his third career NHL goal in 58 games – at the 16:59 mark.
It’s difficult to not be happy for the Toronto native, who persevered early in the season when he was a healthy scratch. Corrado has the speed and instincts to contribute in the world’s best hockey league, and a summer of building his strength will make him more of an asset for the organization in 2016-17 and beyond.