Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings observations: Auston Matthews scores No. 69 in OT loss

The Toronto Maple Leafs faced a desperate Detroit Red Wings team at Scotiabank Arena, a single point out of a wild-card spot, with several teams gunning for the same thing. Fortunately for the Red Wings, that desperation paid off, and they charged on to a 4-1 lead after the first.

Mitch Marner put the Leafs on the board, connecting with William Nylander on the power play. Detroit responded with four straight unanswered goals, including two from Alex Debrincat. David Perron’s 16th came with 19 seconds left, something the Leafs have done way too often.

The Leafs’ page turned in the second period, and they scored some unanswered goals, starting with Nick Robertson scoring off the rush, beating James Reimer for his 14th of the season. Auston Matthews made good on the team’s four-minute power play, while John Tavares tied the game at four to finish the middle frame.

The Leafs had a final power-play opportunity after Patrick Kane was called for high-sticking on Max Domi. Thanks to Sheldon Keefe’s timeout, the top unit was out there for the entire two minutes and couldn’t beat Reimer for a fifth time. Detroit got a final power play of its own with 11 seconds left in regulation after Domi was called for tripping. Ilya Samsonov stopped the Red Wings then, but Kane and Dylan Larkin got the best of him, scoring 41 seconds into overtime.

Toronto got only 1 of 2 points. On to the observations.

Three stars

Auston Matthews

This is a broken record that is by no means broken. Matthews had a few close calls and finally scored his 69th of the season, a total not seen since Mario Lemieux in 1995. It really did feel like 70 was on its way, and Sheldon Keefe gave Matthews every chance to do it. Between the power-play chances, Matthews finished the game at 23:59. The only player who saw more ice time was Morgan Rielly (24:12).


Leafs’ Auston Matthews continues scoring dominance with goal No. 69

Mitch Marner

This was Marner’s first 3-point game since Feb. 21. Nylander gave him an open net to score on, and he added two primary assists. The dive into the bench to avoid taking a too-many-men penalty and putting the Leafs down five-on-three deserves a nod as well.

John Tavares

Well placed and well timed as Tavares has back-to-back games with tying goals. That’s three goals in two games after going five games without one.

The game within Samsonov’s game

This may be hyperbolic, but that opening period was haunting and what the Leafs want to see from themselves this close to the postseason. The team was porous defensively, and the Red Wings struck on their chances when they had them. Debrincat’s second goal is a “bad” rebound, but one created by J.T. Compher purposely shooting the puck at Samsonov’s right pad. David Perron’s goal, on the other hand, is a different story. That can’t go in. Whether you’re talking about the timing of the game, technique, or just overall evaluation, that is a goal that cannot beat Samsonov.

Keefe gave Samsonov a chance to get back in it, leaving him in the game to settle himself. It helped that the team was better defensively and spent the majority of the time on Detroit’s end. He wasn’t asked to do much in the second and third, but he made a beautiful stop on Lucas Raymond and stopped a late-period rally to get the game to overtime.

Injuries, injuries, injuries 

The injury bug was flying around Scotiabank Arena. Some were close calls, while the others took players out of the game.

Liljegren went to the quiet room after Joe Veleno pushed him into the boards. His head made direct contact with the boards, and he went right off the ice, while Veleno received a two-minute minor for it. He returned with three minutes to go during the period while the Leafs were killing Knies’ hooking penalty and finished the night with 20 minutes of ice time.

Bobby McMann also left the game with an injury but didn’t return. It was deemed a lower-body injury, and there isn’t much to see from his last shift to designate what happened.

Jake McCabe, who is no stranger to facial injuries, took a shot off the face. He left the second and wasn’t back for the third.

Even Matthews had a bit of a scare on his charge to 70 goals.

Warm power play, cold penalty kill

The Leafs scored two power-play goals in a game for the first time since their 4-3 win in Colorado back in February. That’s five goals in 17 opportunities across six games. It’s not as hot as it used to be, and that late chance in the third would’ve ended the game.

The penalty kill, however, gave up two goals on three opportunities, the latter of which was the overtime winner (more on that later). That makes it seven goals on 15 opportunities across 5 games. The man advantage goals against are happening more often than the man advantage goals for, and it’s looking to be a serious Achilles’ heel right now.

Scorers gotta score 

Robertson can’t stop scoring. At this rate, I’m not sure what else he needs to do to lock in a playoff spot in the lineup, especially with how good his line looks at five-on-five.

Game Score

Screenshot 2024 04 13 at 10.28.08 PM

Final grade: B+

You dislike the fall to a three-goal deficit, admire the rising battle back and are disappointed by the final result. The Leafs were the better team for the final two periods of the game, and starting overtime on the penalty kill is a tough position for any team. Despite that, the goal itself was preventable as TJ Brodie had an opportunity to clear the puck, which gave Larkin way too much room in front of the net.

The decisions and lack of effort in those situations were the reasons the Leafs fell 4-1 in the first place. Simon Edvinsson benefitted from Nylander and Rielly’s lack of presence on his goal, and Brodie was on the ice for the first Debrincat goal and Perron’s. I would say it’s another lesson and reminder, but how many of those have we seen already?

What’s next for the Leafs

One final round trip before the real test begins. The Leafs will be in Florida to face the Panthers on Tuesday night (7:00 PM EST).

(Photo: Julian Avram / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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