What can only be described as a ‘bad loss’ sums up the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 OT loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena Wednesday.
After the emotional victory 2-nights prior against the Calgary Flames it wasn’t surprising the visitors would be a little slow off the start. What’s surprising was how they played down to the lesser opponent from the west coast and once again fretted away a valuable point.
After a scoreless first, Toronto struck quickly in the second on goals from Ron Hainsey while shorthanded and Morgan Rielly 34-seconds later; sending the pro out of town crowd into a frenzy. The pre-game warm-up was the largest gathering of Leafs fans I’ve seen this season; most of the lower bowl in the Toronto end of the rink was a sea of blue and white. While very impressive, it served as a motivating factor for not only the players but also the usually somber fans including the public address announcer who lead a “Go Canucks Go” chant that according to the guy beside me was a first.
Jacob Markstrom had the tougher of the chances making some terrific saves to keep the game close. At the other end, Frederik Andersen wasn’t as challenged, but when he was, he kept the Canucks in check with some sparkling saves of his own.
The Leafs took a 2-goal cushion into the third and this year has been dynamite protecting the lead when in such position. However before the third was 5-minutes old, Loui Ericksson and ex-Leaf Josh Leivo had the score square again. The Leafs tried to crank up the tempo once the game was tied but Markstrom kept the pesky Canucks hanging around, pushing the game into overtime.
The local fans were out cheered in their own building with the invasion of Leafs nation but had the last laugh when Alexander Edler scored 3:11 into the extra frame beating Andersen between the wickets.
With 15-games remaining in the regular season and visions of home ice advantage in the first round; they cannot let games against weaker teams slip away.
The energy line of Nik Petan, Tyler Ennis and Trevor Moore had some great jump, played with desperation and moved the puck well maintaining offensive zonetime. They, however, cannot be Toronto’s best line.
Auston Matthews continues to be frustrated with blocked shots, passes hitting skates or sticks and shaking double coverage, but he must separate himself from the congested areas.
Maybe its time to reunite 34 with William Nylander and place Kasperi Kapanen on the wing with returning Nazem Kadri maybe as soon as Saturday in Edmonton (if he’s cleared to play).
It’s only going to get more intense the last few weeks of the season.