Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins Monday at Air Canada Centre:
Rielly's scrappy tally
BOS@TOR: Rielly puts home his own rebound with knee
Morgan Rielly's initial backhand is denied by Tuukka Rask, but he taps home the rebound with his knee while sliding to the ice in the 1st
1. Bruins take first lead, but Rielly's rush leads to tying goal. This was a crucial showdown between two division rivals jostling for a playoff berth in a tight Eastern Conference race, and it showed right from the start of the game, as both sides were physical and passionate. And while the Bruins got the first goal of the night - on centre David Backes' 16th of the season at 7:26 of the opening period - the Leafs pushed back and got the game-tying marker at 14:05 of the frame when blueliner Morgan Rielly netted his sixth of the season (and his third in his past five games).
After a terrific start to the sequence by winger Mitch Marner - who registered his team-leading 39th assist of the year on the play - Rielly jumped into the action, went to his backhand for a shot on goalie Tuukka Rask, and then had the rebound ricochet off him and into Boston's net. It was a reward for Rielly, who is looking more comfortable and confident getting involved in the offence than at any point in his four-year NHL career. The Bruins game marked the 301st regular-season game of Rielly's career, and at age 23, the best for him is still to come.
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.
1. Polak gets rare-but-crucial goal to put Toronto on top midway through first. Defenceman Roman Polak is a key contributor and a veteran presence on a young Leafs team, but his impact normally comes through his physicality and penalty-killing. However, he contributed in a different way at the 9:19 mark of the opening period when he beat Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to register his fourth goal of the season and put the Leafs ahead 1-0.
The 30-year-old Polak's career high in goals came with Toronto in the 2014-15 campaign when he netted five in 56 games, but he wasn't concerned with personal bests Thursday. Far more important was giving his team an advantage in a crucial contest against a Tampa Bay squad that had won four straight games entering the evening. And though the Leafs were outshot in the period 7-5, Polak's goal was the only goal of the first frame, and set the stage for a burst of Buds offence in the second.
Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 7-2 loss to the Florida Panthers Tuesday at BB&T Center:
1. Panthers stake out lead at start of first period, add to it on shorthanded marker. The Leafs carried a three-game win streak into the showdown with Florida, but Toronto's defensive prowess at the start of games - an area that's been one of concern at times this season - was a problem Tuesday: just 18 seconds into the contest, the Panthers took a 1-0 lead on centre Aleksander Barkov's 18th goal of the season. And though the Leafs had a chance to tie it up midway through the period on the power play, the home team added to their advantage with a shorthanded marker from centre Colton Sceviour at 10:33.
Defenceman Nikita Zaitsev lost his footing on the shorthanded goal, but Toronto's two-goal deficit couldn't be pinned on him. The Leafs didn't match Florida's energy to start the game, and the desperate Panthers made the most of their opportunities.
Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 3-2 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday at PNC Arena:
Marner buries Bozak's feed
TOR@CAR: Marner beats Ward from the right circle
Tyler Bozak sends a pass to the right circle, where Mitch Marner whips a one-timer past Cam Ward to tie the game at 1 in the 1st period
1. Leafs surrender first goal, but get things even thanks to Marner. For the second consecutive game, the Leafs were at a disadvantage first - and on this night, it was as a result of Carolina dominating things in the first half of the opening period. Toronto got outshot 9-1 by the Hurricanes through the first nine minutes of the game, and centre Viktor Rask made the ninth one count when he scored his 15th goal of the season at 8:59.
However, from that point until the first intermission, the Leafs outshot the Canes 8-3 and evened the score on winger Mitch Marner's 17th goal of the year at the 9:52 mark. Marner's linemates Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk each picked up their 30th assist of the season on Marner's goal, which was also his 54th point of the year in his 62nd game.
Veteran forward Eric Fehr has yet to play in his first game as a Maple Leaf, but he and fellow new addition Brian Boyle already are having an impact on their team as it pushes for a playoff berth in the tightly-contested Eastern Conference. Toronto's core of youngsters have all sorts of talent and enthusiasm, but it's the experience players such as Boyle and Fehr bring to the table that help keep the group grounded and focused as pressures mount and games become even more competitive.
Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday at Air Canada Centre:
Nylander's top-shelf PPG
PHI@TOR: Nylander roofs a short-side wrister for PPG
William Nylander whistles a perfect wrist shot from the circle over the glove of Michal Neuvirth for a power-play goal to tie the game at 1
1. Flyers strike first, but Leafs tie it as both teams trade power play goals in opening frame. Both the Leafs and Flyers were desperate for a win to stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race as they squared off Thursday, but it was Philadelphia that took the first lead of the night when they capitalized on the power play at 6:09 of the first period on winger Wayne Simmonds' 28th goal of the season. Simmonds deflected in a shot from blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere on the play, but the lead only lasted another 7:48, as Toronto tied it on a power play marker from winger William Nylander.
Nylander notched his 18th goal of the year on the play, thanks to a wicked wrist shot from the left hand side that beat Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth at a very difficult angle. The 20-year-old's ability to make incredible shots is now well-established at the NHL level, and Nylander's value with the man advantage - where he's scored half of his goals this year - is undeniable. The goal tied him with former Leafs Dan Daoust, the late Walt Poddubny and Alex Steen for the Leafs' franchise record for power play goals by a rookie.
Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday at Air Canada Centre:
Marchenko's first goal as a Leaf
DET@TOR: Marchenko nets his first goal with the Leafs
Petr Mrazek makes a tremendous initial save, but Alexey Marchenko bangs home the rebound for his first goal as a member of the Maple Leafs
1. Marchenko nets first as a Leaf - and against his former team - to put Toronto ahead early. The Leafs were seeking to end a five-game losing streak Tuesday and were strong at the start of the night, pressuring the Red Wings early and getting rewarded for it when blueliner Alexey Marchenko scored his first goal in a Toronto uniform just 1:07 into the opening period to put the Buds ahead 1-0.
Marchenko, who was acquired off waivers from Detroit in early February, was playing in his sixth game as a Leaf, and the goal was his first of the year and fourth of his NHL career in his 116th regular-season games. The 25-year-old played 20:01 against the L.A. Kings on March 2, and his confidence within head coach Mike Babcock's system is growing.
Brian Boyle has been a Maple Leaf for only a week now, and the veteran NHL centre is still getting acclimated to his new surroundings in Toronto. To call the past seven days a whirlwind doesn't do it justice: he had to fly from Tampa Bay out to San Jose (and make a connecting trip) to meet the Leafs on the first game of their three-game California road trip, work with the team's behind-the-scenes staff to help get settled in his new home city before he even got there, and coordinate with his pregnant wife to bring her to Toronto and get her comfortable before their second child is due to arrive in late May.
Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 5-2 defeat by the Anaheim Ducks Friday at Honda Center:
Hyman deflects shot from point
TOR@ANA: Hyman redirects shot from blue line for goal
Nikita Zaitsev fires a point shot towards the net that catches Zach Hyman's glove and redirects past Jonathan Bernier, tying the game at 1
1. Ducks take first lead of the night, but Hyman ends goal drought to even things up before first intermission. The Leafs were playing their second game in as many nights and the final game of a California road swing, but they found themselves in a hole midway through the first period Friday when Ducks centre Rickard Rakell netted his 25th goal of the year at 10:40 to jump ahead 1-0. However, Toronto evened the score before the first intermission thanks to winger Zach Hyman, who deflected defenceman Nikita Zaitsev's shot at 16:15 of the frame for his ninth goal of the season.
Hyman's goal was his first since Feb. 6, and more importantly, it gave the Buds an even slate to start the middle period.