There’s no doubt that the Toronto Maple Leafs were a tired team – and for good reason. They were in the back end of back-to-back games and had flown from Florida to Washington between games. It was also their third game in four nights.
They were also down two goals in the third period; however, somehow the team pulled up their collective hockey socks and delivered a stunning come-from-behind 4-3 shootout win over a Washington Capitals team that is fighting for its playoff life. From a Capitals’ perspective, it had to be a tough loss. Washington gave up a two-goal lead and couldn’t hold on for the win.
Both goalies were good in the shootout; however, finally, Alex Kerfoot scored in the seventh round of the shootout to give his team the win. Prior to those heroics, both Ilya Mikheyev and the ageless Jason Spezza scored in the third period. Spezza’s game-tying goal came with less than a minute remaining.
Ilya Lyubushkin scored the other Maple Leafs’ goal in the first period. As a result, perhaps the Maple Leafs will be able to hold off a hard-charging Tampa Bay Lightning team and grab the second spot in the Atlantic Division and the first-round, home-ice advantage that goes with it.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ takeaways, I’ll look at three Maple Leafs’ players who played key games to allow the Maple Leafs to pull out the win.
Takeaway One: Vintage Comes Through
Jason Spezza actually scored two goals in the game – but one didn’t count because of an offside. However, with only 57 seconds left, he deposited a nice pass from Ilya Mikheyev to score the game-tying goal and push the game into overtime. He then scored a goal in the shootout, which is something he’s really good at.
Although the 38-year-old Spezza has been a healthy scratch for a number of games this season, it’s obvious that his experience and his skill can be really helpful in pushing the Maple Leafs forward. On the season, he’s now scored 12 goals and added 12 assists (for 24 points) in the 68 games he’s played.
Spezza might be needed during the playoffs; and, if tonight is any indication, he’ll be ready.
Takeaway Two: Erik Kallgren Has a Great Game in Goal
Erik Kallgren simply was great tonight. He let in an early goal, but then he went on to stop all but three of 37 shots during regulation and overtime. But his real solid play seemed to be present during the shootout. He looked calm and solid and stopped six of seven scoring attempts by a strong Capitals team to give Alex Kerfoot a chance to seal the win with a goal late in the shootout.
Given how tired the team was, Kallgren held the line at three goals after falling behind 3-1. His solid play gave his team a chance to win; and, they did. It was a far different night than Kallgren had experienced just two games ago when he was lit up for eight goals in the most lopsided loss the Maple Leafs had experienced on the season when they went down to the Lightning by a score of 8-1.
What might be so special about Kallgren is his disposition. He could have been rattled by giving up eight goals in a game; but, he didn’t seem to let that phase him. It was a solid game by the young goalie.
Takeaway Three: Ilya Mikheyev Plays One Good Game After Another
In last night’s game, Ilya Mikheyev hit the 20-goal mark and added an assist in the dying minute of the game to help his team claim a tough road win. It was another solid game for the young winger.
Mikheyev’s hard work and speed were instrumental in his team’s third-period comeback. His 20th goal of the season brought the team within one goal. His good passing play with Spezza tied the game late.
On the season, Mikheyev has been outstanding. I’m hoping there’s a way the Maple Leafs can re-sign him to another contract. He just seems to have the skill and drive to improve as he gets more experience.
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