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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Flames - 11/28/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames Tuesday at Scotiabank Saddledome:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Polak's fortuitous goal

TOR@CGY: Polak scores off multiple redirects in 1st

Roman Polak fires a slap shot from the point that redirects off two defensemen and past Mike Smith, giving the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead

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1. Toronto gets game's first goal from unlikely-but-welcome source late in opening period. The Leafs' slow starts to games has been a contributing factor in recent weeks, so it was heartening for head coach Mike Babcock and his staff to see Toronto begin the night in Calgary by outshooting the Flames and putting intense pressure on goalie Mike Smith. And with 1:24 left in the opening period, Toronto took the game's first lead when veteran blueliner Roman Polak's shot careened off two different Flames players and past Smith into Calgary's net.

Polak has never been a primary generator of goals in 12 NHL seasons - his goal Tuesday was his first in his seventh game of the year, and his 24th in 641 career regular-season games - and this marker wasn't a thing of beauty on an artistic scale. But Babcock and his charges don't much care how they get scored - only that they get scored. And finishing off a period in which the Buds outshot the home team 12-9 with a good-fortune goal like Polak's could only encourage the Leafs to continue pressing Calgary in the remaining two frames.

Video: TOR@CGY: Zaitsev goes five-hole off Backlund's stick

2. Leafs double advantage on scoring play that began with Hyman's hard work, ended with Zaitsev's second goal in as many games. Toronto continued their push in the middle period, limiting the Flames to just six shots while firing another 11 at Smith. One of those 11 came from the stick of defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, and it squeezed through Smith's legs to give Zaitsev his fourth goal of the season and put the Leafs ahead 2-0 at the 12:36 mark.

The goal was notable for a few reasons: firstly, it tied Zaitsev's rookie NHL goal total in only his 26th game of the year; secondly, it was Zaitsev's second marker in as many games; and finally, the beginning of the scoring sequence was a perfect example of the contributions winger Zach Hyman makes on a regular basis. Hyman (who wound up with the primary assist on the play and his ninth helper of the season) corralled a loose puck along the boards to the right of Smith, then shook off a solid check from Calgary D-man Mark Giordano and kept control of the puck before passing it to Zaitsev for the successful shot.

Zaitsev's goal was his 10th point of the year, and the fourth consecutive Leafs goal from a D-man. But the legwork Hyman put in never goes unnoticed by the coaching staff. The sophomore's smarts, drive, selflessness and maturity make him a valued team member and a competitor opponents don't enjoy playing against. That's about as high a compliment as you can pay any NHLer.

Video: TOR@CGY: Kadri buries a loose puck to pad Leafs' lead

3. Kadri moves into three-way tie for team scoring lead as Leafs boost lead to three goals. Centre Nazem Kadri had a career-high nine-game point streak snapped in Toronto's 4-2 loss to Washington Saturday, but he started a new one - and moved into a three-way tie for the Leafs' scoring lead with centre Auston Matthews and winger James van Riemsdyk - when he netted his 12th goal of the year at 1:54 of the third period.

Winger William Nylander began the scoring play when he attempted to pass the puck to forward Patrick Marleau; instead, the puck went to Kadri, who barely hesitated a fraction of a second before ripping a shot past Smith. With a dozen goals and 22 points in 26 games this year, Kadri is on pace to set new career-bests in both categories - and while many things can happen that can prevent him from doing so, there's little doubt Kadri is playing the best all-around hockey of his career.

4. Stone puts Calgary on scoresheet, but Andersen again looks terrific in thwarting numerous Flames scoring chances. Calgary registered its first goal of the game at 5:29 of the third when blueliner Michael Stone scored his second of the year. However, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen was spectacular for his team on this night, making numerous timely stops (including a dazzling toe save on winger Matthew Tkachuk in the second frame) and yet again asserted himself as one of the world's top netminders.

Andersen didn't have a huge workload in terms of total shots - Calgary managed just five on him in the final period and 20 on the night - but he's been fantastic when he needed to be. His record this year improves to 14-7-1, and his .950 save percentage Tuesday gave Andersen eight consecutive games with an SP of .915 or higher.

5. Komarov's empty-netter secures win for Leafs, who start road trip the right way. The Buds withstood a surge of Flames pressure late in the contest (including the final 2:26 of regulation time, in which Calgary pulled Smith in favour of the extra attacker) and winger Leo Komarov scored into an empty net for his third goal of the year at the 19:59 mark to ensure the win for Toronto, who now move on to Edmonton to take on the Oilers Thursday
.

Edmonton has struggled unexpectedly this season and sit in second-last place in the Western Conference, but if the Leafs are to win their second straight game and secure a sweep in this swing through Alberta, they'll need a performance similar to the one that beat Calgary. Stellar play from Andersen, limited shots-against and high-quality scoring chance numbers, and offensive contributions from throughout the lineup will be key for Toronto, who remain in second spot in the Atlantic Division with a 16-9-1 mark.

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