Maple Leafs Ice the Penguins 4-1in a Special Teams Masterpiece

The Toronto Maple Leafs returned home to the Scotiabank Arena on Thursday evening to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins to kick off a quick homestead after a West Coast road trip which saw them lose to the Canucks and the Flames before handily beating the Kraken in their first ever meeting.

Coming into the game the Penguins have had the Leafs number in the two previous meetings this season, which saw them win 7-1 in late October and than 2-0 a month later. This meeting would be a change of fortunes for the Leafs however.

21 seconds into the game Leafs superstar Auston Matthews was sent in on a breakaway on Tristan Jarry from a nice heads up play off the boards from defenceman T.J Brodie, who went in and ripped it short side for his 33rd goal of the season.

Tweet Credit: @MapleLeafs

With that goal Matthews had a share of the league lead in goals with Chris Kreider and Leon Draisaitl, before the young German knocked in two of his own later on in the night.

Jack Campbell was in the crease for the Leafs and he had to make 45 saves, but arguably his strongest period came in the first by making saves on Brock McGinn, Jake Guentzel and Jeff Carter to preserve the Leaf lead going into the second.

Toronto’s special teams have been red hot all year, especially in the past few games. Coming into the game ranked first and fifth in the NHL, both the PP and PK were on full display in the second period.

After Evan Rodrigues took a holding call in the second period the Leafs were sent to the power play. It took a remarkable solo effort from Morgan Rielly to go coast to coast before wiring a laser beam, akin to Matthews, past Jarry for a two goal lead.

Tweet Credit: @MapleLeafs

Following this power play the Leafs took four consecutive penalties throughout the game and three of them came in the second period alone. The PK was unbeatable all night with some strong defensive performances all around as well as stellar play from the Leafs net-minder.

With Rielly’s goal Jack Campbell picked up his first assist of the season and only his second assist of his career.

With Alex Kerfoot in the box near the end of the second, Morgan Rielly and David Kampf were sprung on a shorthanded 2 on 1 after Kris Letang mishandled the puck at the blue line he had to catch up on the streaking Rielly who swung the puck across for Kampf who slotted the puck home, catching Jarry going the wrong way, for his second shorthanded goal in back to back games.

Campbell had his shutout streak ended within a few minutes of the start of the third period when Jeff Carter fed Evgeni Malkin for his sixth goal of the season after a bad breakdown in the defensive end for the Leafs.

That was the closest the Penguins came for the rest of the game as shortly after Leafs “Rookie” Michael Bunting also sent Jarry’s jockstrap to the rafter when he converted on a nifty passing play from his line mates Matthews and Marner, and giving him the lead for goals as a rookie with 16.

Both Matthews and Marner had two points each extending their hot streaks, with Matthews on a nine-game point streak and Marner who just had a 8 game point streak snapped last week, has 24 points in his last 12 games (11G, 13A).

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Before the game was over however Leafs fans held their breath as Auston Matthews went down the tunnel after skating face first into the post in the offensive zone, quick replays showed that Matthews lost a tooth, and many fans were bracing the worst but he returned to the game just 10 minutes later.

No update was provided if any serious damage was done.

Tweet Credit:@timandfriends

The Penguins who had a four game win streak snapped return home on Sunday when they take on their Metro Division rivals Carolina Hurricanes, in what is sure to be a testy affair as the two teams are only separated by two points in the race for first place in the division.

While the Leafs take on the Blues on Saturday night on national television. The last time the two teams met on January 15, the Leafs left St. Louis with a 6-5 win after giving up a multi goal lead to come from behind and take two points.


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