First Period: The Devils won the first draw, pushing the puck into the offensive zone before the Maple Leafs turned their dump-in around. Both teams played loose with the puck early on, stifling their own opportunities with missed passes. Alexander Kerfoot had the puck taken away from behind by a hard-backchecking Nikita Gusev as Kerfoot drove to the net a minute and a half into the game, which was yet another good sign for Gusev’s NHL development.
Play was slow in the following minutes, as two Devils entry attempts were broken up by an offsides by Miles Wood and an icing by Nikita Gusev. With under 16 minutes to play, Mitch Marner had a good shot on Domingue from the inner half of the faceoff circle that was fought off, and the Maple Leafs were unable to jump on the rebound.
Nikita Gusev made a great deliberate play in the offensive zone, as Vatanen found him for a zone entry, and Gusev circled around the zone for a moment before splitting the defensemen with a no-look pass to Blake Coleman, who fired the puck right into Frederik Andersen. On the other end, John Tavares scored the first goal of the game on a deflection from a point shot off the faceoff. Domingue had no chance on the deflection. 1-0. William Nylander picked up the secondary assist.
Wayne Simmonds had a terrible turnover in the defensive zone, as he stopped with his back turned to the neutral zone rather than taking the exit pass out of the zone. The puck was stripped off him, and Auston Matthews got a shot out of it. That is not an ideal occurance, and Simmonds should not be making zone holds for the opposition.
Kevin Rooney appeared to get high sticked in the face in the offensive zone as the Maple Leafs prepared to breakout with just under 13 minutes to play, but there was no call. The Leafs stood to benefit from the lack of a penalty call, as they scored their second of the game with 10 minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the period. Frederik Gauthier scored on a wrist shot following a Devils turnover in the defensive zone. 2-0. Shortly following the goal, the Maple Leafs were called for a penalty. Two minutes for holding on Pierre Engvall.
Zach Hyman nearly had a shorthanded partial breakaway 15 seconds into the power play, but play was blown dead for knocking down the puck with a high stick. The power play looked terrible, as it was a roundabout passing game along the boards before Jack Hughes took a wrist shot off a pass from Zacha that went wide with 45 seconds remaining in the power play. Zach Hyman intercepted a puck following a predictable combination of a drop and then cross-neutral zone pass late in the power play to kill the remaining time. The Devils shortly after took a hooking call on a breakaway of William Nylander, with Connor Carrick going to the box. Andy Greene’s point shot had been blocked, leading to the breakaway.
On the Maple Leafs power play, Tyson Barrie and Auston Matthews played catch for about 10 seconds at one point before Barrie took a point shot that Andy Greene blocked and cleared from the zone. Following re-entry, Andy Greene got the puck and passed to Damon Severson, who made a full-ice clear. Then with 30 seconds remaining, Jason Spezza took the puck in the corner and passed to Andreas Johnsson, who was stuffed by Louis Domingue. Domingue made one more stop after the stoppage on Kapanen, which was followed by a clear by P.K. Subban.
Pierre Engvall led the Maple Leafs on a two-on-one with four and a half minutes to play, and took the shot, which ended high and wide. Following a television stoppage, the Devils worked the puck down the ice, but a Simmonds pass to Wood in front of the net was battered around before the puck was sent out of the zone. The Devils iced the puck again with three minutes and 11 seconds remaining, as Boqvist was stood up at the defensive zone blueline while trying to take a breakout pass and lost the puck all the way down the ice. Rooney should not have led him right into a defenseman, which could have been dangerous for Boqvist.
Zach Hyman threw an swinging elbow at Sami Vatanen’s face with a bit over two and a half minutes remaining. There was no call, and a scrum ensued between John Hayden and Hyman. No gloves were dropped. P.K. Subban was called for a penalty a minute later, as he got two minutes for interfering with Dmytro Timashov on the forecheck.
Blake Coleman dropped to the ice near the Devils blueline following a Tyson Barrie hold, blocking a pass and turning play the other way. Zajac and Coleman couldn’t sustain possession, however, and the Maple Leafs were able to get back into the offensive zone before Domingue covered a point shot from Rasmus Sundin. Rasmus Sandin took another point shot with four seconds remaining in the period following a netfront turnover, and Zach Hyman tipped it into the net. 3-0, Leafs. Jason Spezza picked up the secondary assist.
Through one period, the Devils were being outshot by the Maple Leafs 16-7, and scoring chances were 17-5 in the Maple Leaf’s favor. The Zajac Line was the only line breaking even in attempts and expected goals, yet they were the only line on the ice for an even strength goal against in the first period. This mostly had to do with the dominance the Maple Leafs had low in the offensive zone, as the Leafs crossed up defensemen with set plays on multiple occasions.
Second Period: The start of the period was quite slow, with play mostly winding around the boards on both ends with sparing shots from the Maple Leafs. Yet, Louis Domingue gave up his fourth goal of the game as William Nylander scored on a redirection to the right of Domingue off a pass from Engvall. It was a bad goal that Domingue should have stopped, and Cory Schneider should have entered the game at that point. John Tavares got the secondary assist. 4-0.
Travis Zajac nearly connected with Nikita Gusev on a redirection attempt, but Gusev was unable to finish, having been impeded by a defending Alexander Kerfoot, who high sticked Gusev right afterwards in the corner. On the power play, a quick shot off the draw by Jesper Bratt was blocked and cleared. Half a minute later, Mitch Marner nearly found Zach Hyman on a two-on-one that was played terribly by P.K. Subban, but the pass was out of Hyman’s reach. For the rest of the power play, the Devils struggled to get anything going and the Maple Leafs likely possessed the puck for longer.
However, Blake Coleman never seems to disappoint with his individual efforts. After a long pass to Miles Wood from the defensive zone by Will Butcher, Wood one-touched it to Coleman, who entered the zone and drove the net. Coleman was bodied as he skated in, but shielded the puck and spun around for a forehand shot that went high past Andersen. 4-1.
Near the halfway point of the period, Alexander Kerfoot took a high stick from Blake Coleman, and the Maple Leafs returned to the power play. On the penalty kill, the Maple Leafs extended their lead to 5-1, as Mitch Marner faked a shot and sent it to Auston Matthews for a redirection to the left of Domingue. Domingue needs to be more aware of his periphery, but that did not really matter by this point of the game. Cory Schneider then came in with eight minutes and 29 seconds remaining in the period.
With under seven minutes remaining, Miles Wood skated into the zone and fired a shot on Andersen that was covered, and Travis Zajac tried to swipe at the puck in the crease. The Maple Leafs followed him after the whistle, and Zajac threw a punch at someone after some stick work on both sides. However, Wood and Engvall went off for roughing. It was a stupid play to take issue with Zajac on, as he slid Andersen’s glove with his stick before skating away at the whistle.
At the end of four-on-four, which was mostly uneventful, Travis Zajac took a two-minute minor for tripping. On the penalty kill, Cory Schneider made a stop on a point shot from Tyson Barrie, and he stretched back to prevent a rebound from being potted after stuffing an initial rebound attempt with his pad. The Leafs iced the puck with just under a minute on their power play, which gave the Devils some room to breathe. At the end of the power play, Cory Schneider made a stop on a Hyman shot from a saucer pass across the crease from Jason Spezza, which was defended horribly in front of the net.
The period ended with the score still 5-1. The shots, meanwhile, were 22-17, Maple Leafs.
Third Period: With Cory Schneider still in net, the Devils began their quest to score four in a period. Mitch Marner took the first attempt of the period, and it was sent wide. Nikita Gusev nearly scored a goal with Frederik Andersen down in the net, as Blake Coleman’s backhand rebounded straight up, and Andersen was unable to cover. The puck got to Gusev after a rebound attempt, and Gusev took the puck around the crease before firing into Kapanen.
Pavel Zacha got a great attempt just under three minutes into the period. Miles Wood stretched play, skating down the wall to the boards before centering the puck to Zacha in the slot, who fired a hard shot on goal. Unfortunately, Zacha couldn’t get the shot under the arm of Andersen.
The Devils forgot that Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were on the ice less than a minute later, as two Devils converged on Zach Hyman by the boards as Marner came into the zone. Marner got the puck from Hyman and slid it across to a cutting Matthews, who one-timed it past Schneider. 6-1.
After the goal, it was reported Jack Hughes left the game with an illness. Pavel Zacha had moved to the third line for that reason.
Past the halfway point of the period, Nikita Gusev and Blake Coleman combined for an absolutely beautiful goal. The puck was poked out to Gusev at the Devils defensive blueline, and he took his time skating up before chipping it over the defenseman’s stick to Blake Coleman, who went top shelf on his backhand. 6-2. Will Butcher picked up his second assist of the game for poking the puck to Gusev.
With four minutes and 24 seconds remaining, the Devils made it 6-3. Will Butcher took a shot that was blocked, and he took his rebound to the back of the net before centering the puck. Blake Coleman swiped at the puck, and it went past Andersen. It was a hat trick for Blake Coleman. Travis Zajac was awarded the secondary assist.
Cody Ceci hooked Miles Wood as Wood tried to make a move around him on a partial breakaway 19 seconds later. On the power play, Severson played catch with Vatanen as Schneider went to the bench a minute in, and the first shot at six on four was a Vatanen point shot that missed. A Severson shot was then blocked, and the Devils had to reset after a clear. Hischier took the puck from the corner to front of the net and went to his backhand, and was hooked as he reached the edge of the crease. Play then became five on three for 15 seconds, after Alain Nasreddine’s timeout, with Schneider 30 or so feet away from the net. Hischier won the draw, and Subban took a shot at the end of the six on three that rebounded out. On a second attempt about five seconds later, Subban one-timed it off a pass from Bratt, and it went through. 6-4, and play returned to even strength.
Nico Hischier nearly scored on the following play, and Wayne Simmonds was in close for a rebound, but the Maple Leafs got the puck out. Shortly after, Auston Matthews sealed the game with an empty net goal to get the hat trick. 7-4. Vatanen’s terrible pass bounded off the boards right to him, and Blake Coleman was unable to reach far enough to get the shot with his stick.
With that, the game wound down and ended.
The Opposition Opinion: Pension Plan Puppets already has a recap up.
Vatanen’s Misplays: Statistically, Sami Vatanen played a fine game tonight. With a 76.19 Corsi for percentage (CF%), he led the Devils in possession stats. However, of the 16 attempts he was on the ice for, only five of them became shots, despite being on the ice for eight even strength offensive zone draws. This is a negative indicator for the relative effectiveness of the offense while the Vatanen-Severson pairing was on the ice.
On the first goal he was on the ice for, Zach Hyman played the puck to Mitch Marner, who had Auston Matthews to his right on the other side of the slot. Vatanen played diagonal to both of them, taking himself out of position to block the pass and not being close enough to Marner to apply any pressure. Regardless, Marner was Severson’s man, and Vatanen needed to cover Matthews. He did not. His breakout pass behind Damon Severson also created the empty net goal for Auston Matthews at the end of the game.
Should Have Pulled Domingue Earlier: Louis Domingue was bad tonight. Sure, he was the victim of redirections and tipped shots, but as the game progressed it seemed the Maple leafs were taking advantage of Domingue’s lateral quickness and peripheral vision by continually going for the cross-ice pass. They continued to do so with Schneider, who stopped all but a truly unstoppable shot from Matthews.
I do not think Schneider would have fared well if he played the whole game. However, the Devils vastly outplayed the Maple Leafs in the second and third periods. In the second period, specifically, the Devils had an 85 CF% and still managed to give up an even strength goal - and it was one Domingue could have stopped. If Domingue was not out for the start of the second, I think the Devils could have tied the game. In all situations, Natural Stat Trick had Domingue at an expected 1.71 goals against to an expected 0.98 for Schneider. Schneider gave up one goal. Domingue gave up five for a 9.52 goals against average.
Your Thoughts: What did you think about tonight’s game? Who do you think played the best aside from Blake Coleman? Will Coleman get 30 goals this season? Should he be on the power play? Why is Vatanen-Severson ever allowed to exist in the defensive zone? Will Louis Domingue ever play with the Devils again? Will Schneider stay this time? What purpose do Kevin Rooney and John Hayden serve at this point of the season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.