AFTER SCORELESS OPENING FRAME, WINGS GET ON SCOREBOARD FIRST IN MIDDLE PERIOD, BUT LEAFS TIE GAME BEFORE INTERMISSION ON MATTHEWS GOAL
Following an extended break - the All-Star Break and their league-mandated bye week - Toronto was playing its first game since Jan. 23, and looking to build a modest two-game win streak. However, after a first period in which neither team generated any offence, Detroit got on the scoresheet first when forward Gustav Nyquist scored at 8:14 of the second. But nearly exactly 10 minutes later - in the final minutes of the first - the Leafs evened the score thanks to the efforts of forwards Patrick Marleau and Auston Matthews:
Video: TOR@DET: Matthews wrists one past Howard
Matthews' goal was his 22nd of the year, and it was nicely set up by linemate Marleau (for his12th assist of the season). That combination would help out the Leafs once again in the third frame.
IN SEMI-REPEAT OF SECOND PERIOD, WINGS JUMP OUT TO LEAD IN THIRD, BUT LEAFS EVEN SCORE LATE IN PERIOD, SEND GAME TO OT
Toronto was outshot 10-5 in the first period, but played better in the second, when they outshot Detroit 8-7. Still, the Red Wings were the more dominant group in terms of puck battles along the boards and simple execution much of the night - this is why Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen had to face 33 shots on the night, while Wings counterpart Jimmy Howard faced only 21 Leafs shots (despite Toronto receiving a notably high five power plays (and converting on none).
That said, the Buds did show some resilience in the third: they found themselves down 2-1 when forward Dylan Larkin recorded his 22nd goal of the season on the power play with 6:29 left in regulation time. But Toronto evened the score again - this time, with only 2:19 left in the third, and once again, with the same two players who produced the Leafs' first goal Friday:
Video: TOR@DET: Marleau deflects in tying goal
This time, it was Marleau who had the goal (his 12th of the year), with Matthews setting him up with the primary assist for his 23rd helper of the season, and blueliner Morgan Rielly receiving the secondary assist for his 38th assist of the year. And though Andersen had to deal with a flurry of Red Wings buzzing around his zone before the final buzzer of the third period sounded, he was able to help bring the game to overtime.
LEAFS EARN OVERTIME POINT, BUT LOSE TO WINGS ON DEKEYSER GOAL HALFWAY THROUGH OT
As Oilers head coach Ken Hitchock predicted to me a number of years ago, 3-on-3 overtime hockey will quickly evolve into a series of 2-on-1 rushes, and that's what it basically is these days. Toronto had a couple Friday night, but couldn't beat Howard to emerge with the victory and start a two-game win streak; instead, Wings D-Man Danny Dekeyser scored at 2:40 of OT to produce the game-winner and send the Leafs hurrying home on a downer note to host the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday at Scotiabank Arena.
Toronto's energy levels need to be much higher, and their zone entries far more attentive to detail, to succeed against Sidney Crosby and the always-tough Penguins, who won't have star centre Evgeni Malkin in the lineup Saturday, but who will have new trade-addition forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann on the ice against the Buds. Also, Leafs Nation will get their first look at home at new acquisition D-man Jake Muzzin, who was brought in via a trade with the L.A. Kings last week.