Frederik Andersen's 37th Win Ties Franchise Record; Leafs Take Down Islanders 5-4
Toronto (5) New York (4) Final
Friday, March 30, 2018
Friday night marked the first leg of Toronto’s final back-to-back of the season, with the New York Islanders playing host to the Maple Leafs in a back-and-forth affair.
With five games remaining, including tonight, the Maple Leafs must wait and see who their first-round opponent will be between the red-hot Boston Bruins and the faltering Tampa Bay Lightning. What remains most important to Toronto is finishing the season strong in preparation for a gruelling post-season grind.
A shaky outing on Wednesday saw Frederik Andersen narrowly pick up his 36th win, just one removed from tying the single-season franchise record. He would get the nod in goal as per Mike Babcock’s routine choice rather than against a potent Winnipeg Jets offence, tomorrow.
Former Toronto Marlie, Christopher Gibson, would start in between the pipes for New York.
As the action got underway, it was clear that either team was prepared for an all-out battle. The pair of quick-strike offences were prepared to go toe-to-toe for the entirety of the game—as demonstrated by several deadlocks and lead changes.
Anthony Beauvillier broke the ice to give New York an early advantage, however, that would be short-lived if Nazem Kadri had anything to say about it.
Toronto’s deadly power play was back at it again with Mitch Marner at the helm. The shifty winger managed to receive a quick pass off a face-off from Morgan Rielly before locating Kadri, the eventual goal-scorer, for an easy tap-in to beat Gibson. His 31st tally would tie the game at 1-apiece… but not for long.
The Islanders reaffirmed their lead two minutes later on the back of Johnny Boychuk’s 6th goal of the year and sent his team into the first intermission with a 2-1 advantage.
A similar trend continued into the second frame, as either team traded blows in hopes of breaking open the score.
Nikita Zaitsev struck first to begin the period with the score knotted at 2-apiece—but only briefly, before leading to another go-ahead goal for the Islanders just moments later. Brock Nelson recorded his 19th to put the Maple Leafs back on their heels and managed to hold down that lead for more than just a couple minutes.
Several minutes passed and the score remained intact until it was abruptly tied once more. Mitch Marner’s 22nd goal reignited Toronto’s bench at a more than ideal time and would shift the momentum in their favour.
The third period was emblematic of Toronto’s season, that being the ability to ride their high octane offence to victory.
James van Riemsdyk continued his hot-hand and managed to record his 36th goal.
An initial shot from Ron Hainsey failed to find the net from the point and instead dropped onto Van Riemsdyk’s stick for a clean shot at Christopher Gibson. As you may have guessed, he made no mistake and potted the go-ahead goal for Toronto’s first lead of the night.
Despite having all the momentum, the Maple Leafs would momentarily collapse and allow the Islanders to deadlock the score once again. John Tavares, who had been relatively quiet prior, was able to sneak his 34th of the season past Frederik Andersen—the score read 4-4.
With plenty of time left to play, there was only one thing left to be done; Someone had to score.
An opportunity presented itself and none other than Auston Matthews would answer the call.
After missing 19-total games to injury this season, Matthews has still managed to eclipse the 30-goal mark and did so with four more games remaining. After going undetected in the Islanders zone, Matthews lurked behind defenders in the slot before receiving a crisp feed from William Nylander for an easy one-time shot past Gibson.
Matthews’ goal propelled Toronto ahead 5-4 with several minutes remaining—which is where the score would stand.
Frederik Andersen did, in fact, pick up his 37th win to match Ed Belfour and Andrew Raycroft for the single-season franchise record.
The victory increases Toronto’s point total to 101, reaching the 100-point mark for just the fourth time in franchise history—and the first since 2003-04.
Additionally, after struggled to reach the 40-point plateau in each of his four previous NHL seasons, Morgan Rielly notched his 50th point of the campaign tonight. Slowly, but surely, Rielly is transforming himself into the ideal number-one defender everyone is searching for.
The Leafs will return home for a date with the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow night, which is set to go at 7:00 p.m. EST. On a side note, I will be in the house at Air Canada Centre to cover my very first NHL game as a media member! Keep an eye out for more content on Sunday, too.
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Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs