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The sixth-place Leafs beat the first-place Boston in regulation so that means they should take care of last-place Buffalo in regulation no problem, right? Wrong.
Most of the big guns came out to play in this one but a soft goal by Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson in the third period tied it up at 3-3 for the Buffalo Sabres last night at the Air Canada Centre and that sent the game into overtime, and quieted the crowd for more than half the period, too.
Overtime produced absolutely nothing other than a nice chance for Kessel on the doorstep but Sabre goalie Ryan Miller made the stop.
It is nothing new for Toronto and Buffalo to take things into extra time, this is at least the third time it has happened this season. Heaven hopes that these two teams NEVER ever meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
This would be the first time that all three Leaf shooters beat the goalie in the shootout. James van Riemsdyk has been doing it all year, why stop now, Joffrey Lupul has for the most part too, and perhaps the luckiest scorer of them all Tyler Bozak literally flipped the puck over Miller’s glove hand, but it took a few seconds for the puck to actually cross the goal line. It was the Toronto’s third straight win, and three of their past four overall have come via the shootout.
“Obviously, we’re fortunate this year that our record in the shootout is a real, strong positive for our hockey club,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “There’s been a lot of extra points gained by it.”
Toronto went 0-5 during shootouts during the shortened season last season.
Matt Moulson had two goals for Buffalo and the second was in the shootout, although for some reason the NHL doesn’t include shootout goals when compiling all the stats.
Leafs were able to grab the two points and that should be all that matters. Technically they put up a better game than the one Tuesday night in Boston where the defensive work was a little sloppier.
Last night, Toronto opened the scoring when Phil the thrill Kessel scored his 22nd goal of the season, the beauty way he shoots that puck from the top of the slot, it must be hard as hell because it finds the back of the net quite a bit.
That sent the teams to the dressing rooms with Toronto up 1-0. Things did not start out well for Toronto in the second period. Bozak was called for tripping, and eventually Buffalo scored not once but twice, neither goal was listed as being power play, Moulson scored once and Matt Ellis had scored to tie the game at 1-1.
Not to fret, Nikolai Kulemin evened it up for Toronto with a similar goal to Phil Kessel’s. Circled around near the top of the slot and absolutely wired one to Miller’s glove side. Kulemin now has 15 goals this season.
Four minuetes later, Morgan Reilly got into the fun too when he beat Miller to take a 3-2 lead just past the halfway mark of the third period. Nazem Kadri, who had been linked to trade rumours lately by idiots everywhere, helped set him up, as well as Mason Raymond.
The only goal in the third period came from Cody Hodgson, putting the game into overtime tied at 3-3 on a shot that found a very tight space in between James Reimer and his left goal post.
Morgan Rielly has been playing much better lately, was the benefactor of a Nazem Kadri pass, and when Phil Kessel continues to score, it seems like the Leafs continue to win. And while these shootouts are beginning to get a little too commonplace in LeafsNation these days, you shouldn’t hear much complaining about it; Toronto is 10-5 when facing the showdown. Having gifted goal-scores such as van Riemsdyk, Kessel, Raymond and nobody will ever forget Tyler Bozak from the Winter Classic.
I don’t know what exactly is going on in the head of Randy Carlyle, but sometimes it works, and somehow, sometimes it does not, the last two game’s, it’s worked like a charm.
Enforcer Colton Orr returned to Toronto’s lineup after missing Tuesday’s game in Boston with the flu, which has affected several players. Frazer McLaren was scratched to make room for Orr.
With the Leafs recording their third win in a row, they are starting to make up some ground in the standings. With how tight the Eastern conference is, getting three straight wins is huge and has put the Leafs back into a wild card spot. Hopefully the Leafs can continue their streak and start to pull away from those close teams behind them. Currently four points back of Montreal and looky who they play next…Montreal, at home!
Cue the Hockey Night theme song please!