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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Red Wings - 04/01/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings Saturday at Joe Louis Arena:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

1. In Leafs' final appearance at Joe Louis, Wings take first lead of the night, carry it into first intermission. This game marked the Leafs' final appearance at legendary Joe Louis Arena, the 37-year-old rink that will close this summer and be replaced by Little Caesars Arena. Toronto has experienced both highs and lows in JLA, but they began this game on their heels, being outshot 16-9 in the first 20 minutes of action and falling behind 1-0 on a goal by Gustav Nyquist at the 14:50 mark. 

The goal came through traffic and beat netminder Frederik Andersen, who didn't have anywhere close to a clean look at it. But, as the shot differential suggested, it could've been worse for the Leafs were it not for Andersen's typically sterling play. And that gave the Buds a chance to get back into it in the second, which they did in short order.

Video: TOR@DET: Marner finishes Carrick's terrific pass

2. Matthews, Marner pull Leafs even, then ahead with second-period markers. The Leafs have received incredible contributions from their rookies this season, and it was no different Saturday, as centre Auston Matthews pulled Toronto even with the Wings just 2:56 into the second period with his team-leading 37th marker (a power play goal). Then, at the 13:53 mark of the frame, winger Mitch Marner registered his 18th of the year after being set up on a breakaway by blueliner Connor Carrick, and the Leafs took their first lead of the night.

Matthews' goal was his 64th point of the season in his 77th game and gave him at least one point in each of his past eight games, while Marner's goal snapped a nine-game goalless stretch and was his 59th point in his 72nd game. Both 19-year-olds are integral parts of the Leafs' future, but don't take that to mean they're not crucial components to this year's squad. They contribute at both ends of the rink and there is no metric for their elite hockey instincts, and Toronto would not be in a position to challenge for second place in the Atlantic Division without them.

Video: TOR@DET: Nylander shows patience and snaps in wrister

3. Nylander adds to Toronto's lead, but Detroit cuts it back to a single goal before second period ends. One minute and 15 seconds after Marner gave the Leafs the lead, winger William Nylander netted his 22nd goal of the season to bump the score to 3-1 in favour of the visitors, but the Red Wings would get one back before the end of the frame, as defenceman Nick Jensen scored his fourth of the year with 3:18 left in the second.

The Leafs were still outshot - 12-11 this time - but their rookies produced offence, and Andersen was again tremendous between the pipes for Toronto. It's been a familiar combination, but even as play has tightened up across the league during the highly-competitive push for post-season berths, it's still working for the Leafs.

4. Wings turn up heat in third, Kronwall ties game three-quarters of the way through the frame. The Red Wings had their consecutive streak of 25 years with a playoff appearance snapped this season, but there are still proud and reliable veterans on the squad, and two of them - winger Henrik Zetterberg and blueliner Niklas Kronwall - combined to create the game-tying goal with 5:19 left in regulation time. Zetterberg made a slick flip pass through Matthews' legs, and Kronwall knocked it into the open net to even the score, and the Wings served notice they were going to compete until the final buzzer.

Video: TOR@DET: van Riemsdyk buries loose puck for late lead
 
5. Leafs strike for two late in regulation, hang on to post third straight victory. Toronto again was on the wrong side of the shot counter in the third, with Detroit firing 14 shots on Andersen to the Leafs' seven on Wings netminder Jimmy Howard. But the Buds got clutch scoring plays from winger James van Riemsdyk - who potted his 25th of the season with 2:26 left in regulation time - and Matthews, who scored his second of the night (and his third point of the game) with 1:09 left to make it 5-3. 

Toronto wound up needing that additional goal from Matthews, as the Wings got a goal from blueliner Mike Green with 45 seconds left to pull within one as the final seconds ticked down. But Andersen stayed composed and turned aside 38 of 42 Detroit shots in total, and the Buds earned their third consecutive victory. That win, combined with the Ottawa Senators' loss to Winnipeg Saturday, vaulted the Leafs into second in the Atlantic with five games left to go. And though Toronto's remaining games - including their next contest, which goes down Monday in Buffalo - will be challenging, the Leafs' resilience has been one of their hallmarks all season, and it's one of the reasons Leafs Nation is so thrilled at the prospects of what's to come.

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