Video: CHI@TOR: Matthews tips home Nylander's terrific feed
1. Matthews ends scoring drought, puts Leafs in front first on brilliant feed from Nylander. Centre Auston Matthews had gone seven games without registering a point, but given that the Leafs have won four of their past five games and that Matthews was contributing on the defensive end, there was little cause for concern with his offensive totals. But Matthews ended his point drought in a spectacular way Saturday, tipping a terrific pass from winger William Nylander through the legs of Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford at 8:25 of the first period for his team-leading 32nd goal of the season.
The Hawks are 8-2-0 in their past 10 games and showed why after Matthews' goal, turning up the pressure on the Leafs and finishing the opening frame with 13 shots to Toronto's eight. However, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen - coming off his fourth shutout of the season in the Buds' 5-0 win over Tampa Bay Thursday - was strong and turned aside all of them to keep his team in the lead heading into the first intermission.
2. Hawks even the score midway through second thanks to Toews' savvy setup. Chicago came out of the dressing room focused and with energy to start the second, and kept the Leafs in their zone for much of the period. But Andersen remained sharp and the Leafs were able to clog up the shooting lanes to lower the quality of chances the visitors had. That said, it's virtually impossible to keep the Hawks' star players off the scoresheet, and at the 10:51 mark of the second, captain Jonathan Toews savvily set up forward John Hayden for the rookie's first-ever NHL goal to tie the contest at a goal apiece.
The Leafs didn't wilt after Hayden's goal and Matthews nearly netted his second of the night when he hit the crossbar from in close on Crawford. But given how well the Blackhawks were competing, entering the final 20 minutes tied with them was a solid achievement for Toronto.
Video: CHI@TOR: Andersen uses pads to stop Kruger in close
3. Andersen continues stellar play, helps push contest to overtime. Andersen was tremendous yet again for the Leafs, stopping all but one of the Hawks' 36 shots in regulation and helping Toronto take the game to overtime. The veteran has allowed just one goal in his past six regulation periods, and his consistent performance in net all year is one of the biggest reasons the Buds are in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
4. Hawks get game-winner from Hartman in OT, but Leafs gain valuable point to remain in playoff position. In a back-and-forth overtime frame that featured almost nothing but 2-on-1 rushes from both teams, the Blackhawks got the game-winner from winger Ryan Hartman with 16.9 seconds left in the fourth period.
The Leafs came close to beating Crawford a few times prior to Hartman's goal, but despite the defeat, they earned a massively important standings point to keep their hold on the final wild card berth. And with a major showdown looming with Boston Monday, Toronto has a solid two showings to build on.
5. Gardiner leads all Leafs in ice time, looks more poised and confident than ever. Blueliner Jake Gardiner logged a team-best 25:48 Saturday, his best total in the ice time department since a Jan. 21 showdown against Ottawa in which he played 25:53. The 26-year-old looked as poised and calm with the puck as he has all season, and his ability to quickly move the puck up ice and join the rush takes much of the pressure off teammates Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev to do the same. As Toronto continues its post-season push, they'll need Gardiner to remain at this level and raise his play in crucial moments.