Maple Leafs Make it Two in-a-Row Over Vancouver

Toronto (3) Vancouver (2) Final (SO)

By: Gordon Brown

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday night featured an all-Canadian matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks — a rare occurrence for two of the country’s major cities.

Frederik Andersen was coming off of a 33-save performance, plus an impressive showing in Thursday’s shootout en route to a 3-2 victory over San Jose. Toronto hoped to continue rolling on their six-game home-stand with a heavily depleted Canucks squad in town.

Vancouver would be without several key-contributors in (C) Brandon Sutter, (C) Bo Horvat, and (LW) Sven Baertschi.

After being named to the North Division’s 2018 AHL All-Star Classic team this week, 21-year-old defenceman Travis Dermott was called upon to make his NHL debut for his hometown Maple Leafs. The Newmarket, Ontario native had posted 17-points (2G, 15A) in 26-games with the Marlies and effectively replaced Andreas Borgman’s place in the lineup.

Following a scoreless first period, it was the Canucks jumping out to the game’s first lead courtesy of Brock Boeser’s 22nd goal of the season. The Leafs’ failure to exit their own zone allowed the 20-year-old sniper to snatch up the puck before receiving a give-and-go one-timer from Thomas Vanek.

It appeared as if Morgan Rielly had tied the game with a long-range knuckle puck, however, it was later determined the initial play entering Vancouver’s zone was offside. Luckily, the Maple Leafs managed to respond just two minutes later.

Auston Matthews wasn’t prepared to be upstaged by his fellow countrymen and matched Boeser’s opening marker with one of his own. A two-on-one rush up the ice left Troy Stetcher pitted against the duo of Hyman and Matthews, which some might say is a fairly favourable matchup for Toronto. The Buds went on to trim their deficit on the back of Matthews’ 19th tally of the year, with plenty of time left to find an equalizer.

Morgan Rielly flipped an aerial pass over the heads of his teammates and defenders alike to spring Tyler Bozak in alone on Jacob Markstrom. Bozak retained the pass in mid-air and went on to have his initial shot stopped, but Markstrom would come up short on the rebound for the veteran’s 8th goal of the season.

The game-tying goal was not without significance as Travis Dermott notched his very-first NHL point with a secondary assist on the play. Aside from his already impressive debut, Dermott looked incredibly comfortable against harder assignments late in the game.

After sixty minutes of regulation time, the score remained deadlocked at 2-apiece — meaning overtime was needed for a second-straight game.

As the action got underway, it was Vancouver coming ever so close to ending it with a flick of the wrist from none-other than Brock Boeser. The rookie appeared convinced to have scored the game-winning-goal, only to be disputed with a replay showing a post-to-post shot that never crosses the goal-line.

The play would continue, but a shootout would be deemed necessary after a scoreless three-on-three session.

Toronto jumped out to an early advantage with an Auston Matthews snipe on the very first shot, only to be matched by Sam Ganger on the ensuing opportunity. It remained even until Thursday night’s hero, Tyler Bozak, took to the ice and scored to shift the pressure back onto Vancouver.

Thomas Vanek would be the Canucks’ last glimmer of hope — which would be ended fairly quickly by Frederik Andersen’s quick catching hand.

The Leafs would ultimately walk away with a nearly identical 3-2 shootout victory to improve their home-stand record to 2-1-0 thus far. Toronto’s next test will come on Monday against the always tough Columbus Blue Jackets, who currently sit in 4th place of the Metropolitan Division and are firmly in a Wild Card position for the time being. Puck drop is set at 7:00 p.m.

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E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca

On Twitter - @GordBrown_

Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs