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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Blues - 02/09/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 2-1 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues Thursday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

1. Early turnovers prove costly as Blues take game's first lead. Toronto began Thursday's action with a push into the Blues' zone, and defenceman Connor Carrick nearly scored when he hit the post early on. However, a series of turnovers shortly thereafter eventually hurt the Leafs, as centre Patrik Berglund netted his 14th goal of the season at the 4:15 mark of the period to take the first lead of the night.

The Leafs were 1-11-2 when trailing after one period entering the game, and they were fortunate goalie Frederik Andersen kept St. Louis' lead at just one marker, as the Blues outshot the Buds 17-4 through the first 20 minutes. Toronto's play in both zones was not crisp and focused, and a veteran squad like the Blues took full advantage to impose their will on the action.

Video: STL@TOR: Rielly buries a rebound past Allen

2. Leafs hemmed into their own zone for much of second frame, but Rielly evens things up late. The Blues asserted themselves again in the middle period, dominating play along the the boards and beating the Leafs to loose pucks for most of the frame while firing 14 more shots at Andersen. But Toronto's netminder was focused and turned all of them aside, and as the second intermission drew nearer, the Buds began to turn things around, making a late drive on St. Louis goalie Jake Allen a number of times and getting 14 shots of their own on the Blues' net.

That change in direction paid off for the Leafs with 1:04 left in the second, as blueliner Morgan Rielly corralled a rebound off a William Nylander deflection and scored his second of the season to tie the game at a goal apiece. It was Rielly's second goal this season and his first since Nov. 11, and it provided his team with an emotional jolt they'd need for the final regulation period.

Video: STL@TOR: Andersen makes tough back-to-back saves

3. With timely saves, Andersen gives Toronto a chance to win. Andersen hasn't had his best stretch of play of late, but the veteran was focused and got better as the game unfolded. After Toronto's first power play of the night ended midway through the third period, Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo - the penalized player - stepped out of the penalty box and broke in on Andersen on a breakway, but Andersen stood his ground and prevented him from scoring to keep the game knotted at 1-1. 

When the Leafs were out-hustled the way they were for most of the game, all you can ask of your goalie is to give you a shot at winning. And that's precisely what Andersen did, stopping 38 of 40 total Blues shots.

4. Leafs tighten up defensively in third to send game to extra time. After surrendering 31 shots through the first two periods, Toronto limited St. Louis to eight shots in the third period and turned the pressure around, getting another 14 shots on Allen to finish the third period with 32 total shots. The Leafs nearly won it in the final seconds of regulation, but Allen also had a strong game and the Blues were adept at collapsing in front of him.

As a result, the game went to overtime, and while you could make an argument the Blues were the more dominant team for the majority of the night, Toronto found a way to bear down and eke out a valuable standings point as they continue their pursuit of a post-season berth.  

5. Tarasenko wins it in OT with quick-strike goal. The 3-on-3 overtime period had barely began when, after the Blues won the centre ice faceoff, winger Vladimir Tarasenko carried the puck over the blueline and snapped a blistering shot past Andersen for the game-winner. 

The goal was Tarasenko's 26th of the year and underscored his talents as one of the NHL's top offensive threats. Andersen deserved a better result for the work he put in, but again, the Leafs earned a point in the standings that helped them maintain a one-point lead over the Boston Bruins (on who they still have three games in hand) for third place in the Atlantic Division. Every point matters, and despite the defeat, the Buds had positives to take away from this tilt.

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