Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-3 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators Sunday in the second game of their 2017 Rookie Tournament at Ricoh Coliseum:
1. Leafs shake off Friday loss with stellar start Sunday. The Maple Leafs' rookies were aiming to improve on an uneven performance in Friday's 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, and that's exactly what happened Sunday against Ottawa: following a great setup by blueliner Fedor Gordeev, winger Mārtiņš Dzierkals scored his second goal of the tournament 90 seconds into the first period to give Toronto a 1-0 lead, and 1:08 later, winger Ryan McGregor capitalized on a scramble in front of Sens goalie Kevin Bailie to score his first and put the Buds ahead by two.
But the Leafs weren't done producing offence in the first frame - and not even in the first half of the first frame - just yet: after going on the power play, blueliner Timothy Liljegren made a slick move at the Senators' blueline, broke in toward Bailie and passed the puck to winger Mason Marchment, who quickly found teammate Trevor Moore directly in front of the net; Moore made no mistake, scoring at 9:40 to increase the Buds' lead to 3-0.
Toronto and Ottawa finished the first 20 minutes of action tied in shots on net with 10 apiece, but the Leafs' creativity and speed gave them the edge they needed to build a considerable lead and enter the middle period with confidence.
2. After tough outing, Scott stands strong in Toronto's net. Leafs goalie Ian Scott also wasn't at his sharpest in Friday's loss, surrendering four goals in the third period after replacing starter Kasimir Kaskisuo midway through the second frame. However, Scott showed the ability to bounce back Sunday, starting the contest between the pipes for Toronto and stopping all 18 Senators shots he saw through 21:10 of action. Kaskisuo came in at the 8:50 mark of the middle period, but the 18-year-old Scott - whom the Buds selected in the fourth round (110th overall) in the 2017 NHL entry draft - availed himself quite nicely in displaying the mental resilience netminders need to thrive at the professional level.
3. Buds show structure in scoreless second frame. The Senators settled down somewhat in the second and outshot the Buds 13-9 in the frame, but the Leafs - riding the focus of Scott and Kaskisuo - showed they could tighten up their play as well. As a result, neither side scored, and Toronto's 3-0 advantage held up as the teams headed into the second intermission.
Part of the reason for that was the Leafs' penalty kill, which killed off both Sens power plays in the second and was 3-for-3 on the night. Combined with Toronto's first-period power play goal, the Buds' non-5-on-5-work looked solid for much of the game and underscored how important special teams are at the highest echelons of the sport.
4. Senators get on scoreboard early in third, score twice late in regulation to force overtime. They were down by a trio of goals when the third period began, but the Senators still had life in them - no shock, considering the same team beat the Habs 8-2 Saturday night at Ricoh - and they got on the scoreboard at the 5:10 mark of the frame when D-man Andreas Englund's shot evaded Kaskisuo to cut Toronto's lead to 3-1. The teams traded good scoring chances after that and the game grew more physical - and after a defensive miscue, Ottawa scored their second straight marker on centre Matteo Gennaro's goal with 4:49 left in regulation.
The Leafs got a little scrambly in their own zone after that, and with 1:13 remaining in the period, Ottawa winger Drake Batherson found teammate Filip Chlapik at the left side of Kaskisuo's net and Chlapik knocked it in to even the score at 3-3 and force overtime.
The Senators outshot the Leafs 32-26 after three periods and had the momentum entering OT, and Toronto's jitters in attempting to close out the win were the chief culprit for the need for extra time.
5. Physicality stands out for a number of Leafs. The Senators gave the Leafs a power play opportunity early in OT, but although Toronto came close to ending it a couple of times - and after Ottawa nearly scored on a breakaway by Batherson at the end of the Buds' man advantage - neither side beat the opposition's goalie and a shootout was required to decide a winner. In the shootout, it took six shooters on both sides before anyone scored, but in the end, Ottawa blueliner Maxime Lajoie netted the only shootout goal to give the Sens the win and the tournament victory.
The final result wasn't ideal for the Buds, but the youngsters in Blue & White had long stretches of savvy and crafty play, and like all rookies, their challenge now is consistency, attention to detail and focus from the first whistle to the final buzzer. That doesn't come in one or two games, and Toronto's development staff understand they've got work to do, but as the two weekend games showed, they've also got a great deal of talent with which to work.