Freddy Andersen's 44 Saves Lift Toronto Over Nashville 3-2 (OT)

Toronto (3) Nashville (2) Final (OT)

By: Gordon Brown

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Maple Leafs have seen their offence reinvented over recent weeks and had won five of their six games prior to Wednesday night—which is when Toronto would host the Nashville Predators. 

February 7th also marked the 42nd anniversary of Daryl Sittler’s legendary 10-point night against Boston in 1976, which has stood as the single-game NHL record ever since. To much surprise of the 76-year-old, Sittler was presented with his long-lost game-worn sweater from that magical night earlier this week. Apparently, it had been recovered from a warehouse in New Jersey.  

Truthfully, former Maple Leafs GM Harold Ballard could have done any number of things with it at the time.

Following a scary incident on Monday, Frederik Andersen was lucky to be back on the ice after escaping a potentially threatening head injury. The Danish goaltender took a high-impact skate to the face courtesy of none other than Anaheim Ducks’ forward Corey Perry upon crashing the net. Aside from his health, Toronto was relieved to have Andersen back in between the pipes come Wednesday.

“It was a good uppercut to the jaw,” Andersen explained to the media. All was forgiven, though, as Perry made amends for his antics with a post-game text message to his former teammate.

Consequently, Pekka Rinne received the nod in goal for Nashville.

This proved to be a considerable test for the Leafs, considering Smashville entered just 3-points back of the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. An intriguing question lingered; Could the kids hang with best of them? It’s hard to distinguish the two in a league with increasing youth.

Mike Babcock had some thoughts on measuring his team next to last year’s Stanley Cup Finalists,

“Well, I think it’s important. I think you’re playing all these games in the league and you have a great game every night because the other teams are so even. But you have a team that’s high in the standings and a team that went very deep last year, so you have a chance to see where you’re at and see if you’re any good or not. We think we are, but you’ve got to show it on a nightly basis. It should be fun tonight.”

That meant Matt Martin would be a healthy scratch for his seventh straight game.

With Matt Martin out of the lineup, Toronto is still presumably searching for potential suitors of the 28-year-old veteran. The New York Islanders are rumoured to have a possible interest in acquiring their former fourth-line mainstay—although, it’s being reported that Toronto will need to retain salary. Martin is locked in for two more seasons at a $2.5M salary cap hit. 

Considering it’s only 1.5 years into the deal, this is a prime example of how handing four-years of contractual term to a grit-grinder can burn a team.

In other news, Mike Fisher recently came out of retirement and signed onto a one-year deal to rejoin Nashville, however, he would not make his debut. The former captain has been skating with the team but it isn’t yet clear when he’ll be available to join the lineup.

As the action got underway, either goaltender remained perfect until James van Riemsdyk had something to say about it at the 16:06 mark of the opening frame. 

To the surprise of many, a rarely seen one-timer slap shot came from the power-forward and managed to fool Pekka Rinne, effectively breaking the ice. Seeing as Van Riemsdyk typically scores the majority of his goals from within the crease area, Rinne was most certainly caught off-guard…

Matters only got worse for the Preds as play progressed into the second period. A power play opportunity offered Nashville a chance to even the score at 1-apiece but instead paid the price for something far worse. 

P.K. Subban took an offensive zone gamble to keep the puck alive and was beaten by the speed of Kasperi Kapanen, who was able to flip it to himself for a slight break against Pekka Rinne. Only Craig Smith stood in his path on the back-check, even then Kapenen patiently waited before releasing a deceptive wrist shot through Rinne’s five-hole to give the Leafs a 2-0 advantage.

It wasn’t all fun and goals for the Leafs, though, as Toronto began to see their two-goal lead evaporate late in the second period. 

Colton Sissons caught Frederik Andersen out of position and ended his shutout bid with a quick wrist shot. Andersen was fooled by Pontus Aberg’s initial shot, which James van Riemsdyk blocked before falling to the ice for Sissons to convert upon—coming with less than two minutes left on the clock.

The Predators carried that momentum into the final twenty minutes of regulation and tied the score at 2-apiece just 0:25 seconds in. Toronto surrendered the equalizer after failing to exit their own zone twice and left their home crowd in silence with a flip of the script. Viktor Arvidsson played the role of hero and snapped home his 18th goal of the season.

A relatively quiet period ensued up until the final two minutes of regulation time. Ryan Johansen appeared to have the game on his stick with a wrap-around attempt but was ultimately stopped by the Great Dane with a stretching toe save, effectively saving the Leafs a point and sending it to overtime.

Overtime remained scoreless despite several scoring chances at either end, signalling the onset of a shootout.

This was no ordinary shootout, well, in a traditional sense—it lasted seven rounds!

Two scoreless rounds set up Tyler Bozak and Ryan Ellis to each score in Round 3, respectively, and extend the list of shooters. The goaltending battle continued through until Round 7 when finally James van Riemsdyk broke the silence to give his team an advantage heading into the next shooter. 

It all came down to Viktor Arvidsson, and then it was gone in an instant. Freddy Andersen wasn’t about to be beaten twice by the Swedish sniper and abruptly slammed the door to seal a 3-2 victory. A 44 save performance, plus 6 in the shootout set tonight’s precedent.

The Maple Leafs will be back in action Saturday for the Battle of Ontario: Part IV. Ottawa has favoured well against Toronto so far this season, amassing a 2-1-0 record so far. Puck drop is set to go at 7 p.m. EST on Saturday.

Side note:

In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, Mike Babcock has been sure to drop hints on whether the Leafs will be buyers or sellers. Today was no different,

“The people who need to know, know.”

Well, if we are to read between the lines, the message is clear. Look for Toronto to be wheeling and dealing at the deadline—even if it’s simply a depth addition at centre or on defence.

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Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs