Maple Leafs Set Franchise Winning Streak with 10th Straight on Home-Ice

Toronto (5) Pittsburgh (2) Final

By: Gordon Brown

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday night marked a big test for the Maple Leafs, who were coming off of a four-day break and looking to exorcise a dreaded four-game losing streak against the Pittsburgh Penguins—whose grasp of the Metropolitan Division was slipping. 

The Penguins entered just a single point ahead of the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the division and could use all the points they can muster down the stretch. 

Luckily for Pittsburgh, they entered with three consecutive wins and all sorts of momentum. Not to mention, the Penguins came out on top with a convincing 5-3 victory over Toronto just three weeks prior.

Auston Matthews remained out of the lineup a sixth-straight game despite beginning to skate in practice with the team this week. 

In other news, Matt Martin found himself back in the press box as Josh Leivo was inserted into the lineup for the first time since February 26th. Nikita Zaitsev would sit out due to flu-like symptoms, prompting Connor Carrick’s return to the lineup as well.

It also marked James van Riemsdyk’s 400th career game as a Maple Leaf. 

Toronto would jump out to a 1-0 advantage at the 9:10 mark of the opening frame, with Josh Leivo making his presence felt to help get his squad on the board first.  

The eager winger made an incredibly skilled play as he skated behind the goal-line, making a no-look, behind-the-back pass to connect with Tyler Bozak crashing towards the crease. Bozak released a shot and created a rebound opportunity, which found its way directly to Kapanen for an easy strike into a seemingly vacant net. 

Instead of escaping the period with a one-goal deficit, the Penguins surrendered another strike in the final minute of play and were down by a score of 2-0. Nazem Kadri notched his 25th goal of the season with a deflection over Penguins net-minder, Tristan Jarry, coming off of an initial shot by Morgan Rielly. 

Momentum appeared to be a figure of the past for Toronto as the second period rolled around, but Frederik Andersen stood tall to preserve his team’s lead. The Maple Leafs didn’t record a shot until after the mid-way point of the second period—which was around the time when Toronto was awarded their first power play of the game.

It didn’t take long for Toronto to make up for lost time while on the man-advantage…

The ensuing face-off saw the puck end up at the point on Morgan Rielly’s stick, before sliding it over to Mitch Marner with a clear path towards the net. Marner’s initial shot produced a juicy rebound, leaving Tristan Jarry in a poor position to stop Toronto’s second shot of the frame. It certainly doesn’t help that his first save came nearly twelve minutes into the second.

Later in the frame, Pittsburgh appeared to get on the board and trim the deficit—but was instead awarded a two-minute minor penalty for goaltender interference. 

After skating through the crease and leaning an elbow into Frederik Andersen’s head, Brian Dumoulin managed to sneak the puck over the goal line and essentially provided false hope for an impending comeback. Upon discussion, the referees made what turned out to be a costly decision for Pittsburgh and awarded Toronto another power play. 

Can you spell c-o-n-t-r-o-v-e-r-s-y?

Mitch Marner would secure his 19th goal just moments later and increased the stranglehold to 4-0, while Morgan Rielly posted his third assist of the night. 

Eventually the third period commenced and with it ended Toronto’s good fortune, which evidently couldn’t last all night—but still long enough to hold on for a victory. 

Frederik Andersen appeared to be on the way to his sixth shutout of the season, if it weren’t for goals from Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist, respectively. Pittsburgh’s late push would come to a close as soon as Patrick Marleau sealed the deal with an empty-netter for his 21st goal of the season.

The Washington Capitals also picked up a victory tonight and effectively overtook Pittsburgh for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Toronto’s 10th connective win on home ice establishes a new franchise record, previously shared by the 1953-54 and 2006-2007 Maple Leafs.

The Buds will be back in action on Wednesday night, as they get set to host a Dallas Stars team that’s clinging to a Wild Card position and desperate for wins. Puck drop is set at 7:00 p.m. EST.

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Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs