The Toronto Maple Leafs gave a vastly improved playoff type performance but still came up short losing to the Nashville Predators 3-0 at Bridgestone Arena Tuesday.
It was a grinding affair with both teams more cognizant to defense combining for just 42 shots on goal; Ottawa had 44 alone in the Nation's Capital on the weekend.
The Leafs have now lost four of their last 5 but Mike Babcock had to be happy with the overall game of his team including Frederik Andersen who looked more like himself and couldn’t be faulted on goals by Brain Boyle and Wayne Simmonds; Flip Forsberg added an empty netter. Andersen although not tested too often turned away the shots he needed to stop.
The real star of the show was Preds net-minder Pekka Renne who was brilliant robbing Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman on the same play along with key stops against Mitch Marner, Nazim Kadri, and John Tavares in the second period alone.
After a sluggish opening frame, both teams were more focused on not making a mistake sacrificing offense as a result. The Leafs played with a determined effort missing the last few weeks out-shooting the Preds 8-2 in the second. Renne clearly had the tougher evening and was the difference. The Leafs on a couple bad 'own zone' turnovers that ended up in the back of their net, was their undoing.
Kasperi Kapanen returned to the lineup after missing the last few with a concussion but will need a couple games to be back to par. His speed keeps opponents off kilter and is a threat on the penalty kill.
While a better output, they still lost; turnovers were costly and the power play was blanked on three chances. They now find themselves 6-points behind the Boston Bruins who won again and home-ice may now be a lost opportunity with 9-games to play.
Next up is the second of back to back against the Buffalo Sabres, who always play the Leafs tough. Toronto has a chance to sweep the season series, but the Sabres lost a couple close ones and they’d like nothing better than setting their 'cross border rival' back again.
Leafs Nation should present a strong showing at KeyBank Center so, as usual, promises to be a lively evening.