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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Flames -12/06/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 2-1 shootout win over the Calgary Flames Wednesday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

1. Leafs on their heels early, give up first power play, first goal to Flames. In one of their best all-around performances of the season, Toronto beat the Flames 4-1 Nov. 28, so you knew Calgary's players would be looking to atone for the loss Wednesday at the ACC. And sure enough, the Flames began the first period strongly, getting pucks at Buds goalie Frederik Andersen early and often, and pressuring Toronto in its zone for most of the first half of the frame. As a result, the Leafs were called for the first penalty of the night at the 9:27 mark, and Calgary scored on the ensuing power play when defenceman Mark Giordano's shot from the point went through traffic and into the Buds' net at 10:37.

The Leafs generated more scoring chances in the second half of the period - earning a pair of power plays, including one with 11.8 seconds left before the intermission - but Flames goalie Mike Smith turned aside all 12 Toronto shots and Calgary led 1-0 after 20 minutes. 

Video: CGY@TOR: Rielly beats Smith from the boards

 

2. Leafs face tough board battles, but tie game late in second on Rielly goal. The Flames are a physical team and earned the Leafs' wrath early on with robust play along the boards and aggressive play as they drove toward Andersen. And although Toronto didn't win a lot of puck battles in the first two periods and had difficulty establishing their cycle game and breaking deep into Calgary's zone, they got a break late in the second: The Buds failed to score after an unpredictable carom off the end boards left Smith behind his net and the puck in front of it, but in short order, blueliner Morgan Rielly fired a shot from the side boards that eluded Smith and tied the game at 1-1 with 1:15 left before the second intermission.

The Flames again won out in the shot department in the second, outshooting the Leafs 12-9 (and 26-21 after 40 minutes), but Andersen was stingy and Toronto did a solid job of limiting follow-up scoring opportunities. And Rielly's goal gave them a fresh slate entering the final regulation frame.

Video: CGY@TOR: Andersen stops Frolik and Backlund late

3. Flames push back to start third, but Andersen stays strong, preserves tie. Calgary began the third frame outshooting Toronto 11-2, and the Flames thought they'd scored the go-ahead goal early in the period, but the officials ruled Andersen's net was off its moorings before the puck crossed the goal line, and a review confirmed their call. And the Leafs' No. 1 netminder was his typically strong self throughout the game, stopping 47 Flames shots in total.

Andersen consistently has been terrific for the Blue & White, and he's a major reason the Leafs' defensive performance has improved as the season has unfolded. He's delivered as advertised in his two years with Toronto, and has carved out a spot for himself as one of the game's top goalies.  


4. Emotions rise as teams' dislike for each other shines through. It may have been the short time span between seeing each other, but the Leafs and Flames had a healthy dislike for each other that grew as the game went on, and led to a number of skirmishes before and after the whistles. Calgary's insistence on getting hard traffic in front of Andersen resulted in a number of pushes-and-shoves, and the Leafs' defensive duo of Roman Polak and Andreas Borgman gave as good as they got, putting Flames players on edge.

Barring a playoff showdown, this was the final game between the two teams, but the enmity they generated in the span of eight days is likely to carry over into seasons to come.

5. The Leafs overcame a late push by the Flames in Toronto's zone to send the game to extra time, and despite a typically wild 3-on-3 overtime session, no winner was decided and the game went to a shootout
. The Leafs' first shooter, Auston Matthews scored, but Matthew Tkachuk of the Flames tied it and sent the shootout to a fourth shooter. Toronto's William Nylander beat Smith, and on the final shot of the game, Calgary's Mikael Backlund missed the net to give the Leafs the win.

The victory improved Toronto's shootout record to 2-1 this season and got them back in the win column as they turned their attention to a Saturday night showdown with the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in Pittsburgh. If the Buds can get a similarly strong defensive effort, they'll give themselves a chance to beat the Pens.

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