AFTER SCORELESS FIRST PERIOD, PREDS BREAK OUT WITH TWO GOALS IN SECOND
Toronto was playing the first game of the second half of their regular season, and their final game of a four-game home stand at Scotiabank Arena. And after a scoreless first period with the Predators, the Leafs found themselves trailing 1-0 at 4:08 of the second frame after blueliner Mattias Ekholm scored his fifth goal of the year - a power play marker that beat goalie Michael Hutchinson on a shot from the point through traffic.
The Leafs believed they'd tied the score when centre Auston Matthews tapped a brilliant backhanded pass from winger Andreas Johnsson into an open Preds net, but Nashville challenged the scoring play as offside, and the on-ice officials agreed with them and Matthews' goal did not count.
That gave the visitors an opportunity to extend their lead before the second intermission, and that's what Predators D-man P.K. Subban did when his slap shot from the blueline beat Hutchinson for Subban's fourth goal of the season and a 2-0 lead. Toronto had a number of quality scoring chances despite only registering 14 shots through two periods - for instance, Matthews hit the post early in the first period - but netminder Pekka Rinne was solid when he had to be, and fortunate on a few occasions, and the Buds started the third frame trailing by a pair.
LEAFS PRESSURE IN THIRD, BUT RINNE, PREDS HOLD FORT, ADD TWO LATE GOALS TO WIN
The Leafs didn't allow their deficit to affect their play in the third period, as they came out, continued to push the Predators in their own zone, and came within a hair's breadth of getting on the scoresheet when Matthews just missed an open net early in the frame.
Unfortunately for Leafs fans, the Preds were solid when it came to preventing secondary scoring opportunities and closing down scoring lanes, and Nashville added a pair of goals late in regulation to put the game out of reach for Toronto.
The Leafs have a couple of days off before taking on the Devils in New Jersey. They've been shut out twice in their past four games, but there's been no lack of scoring chances, which should make head coach Mike Babcock happy - but Toronto's offence needs to finish those chances to continue their stellar play from the first half of the season.