The Detroit Red Wings will attempt to build upon Saturday night’s win over Nashville when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs this evening (7:00 PM EST on FSD/Sportsnet/97.1 FM).
The 35-20-and-5 Maple Leafs sit third in the Atlantic Division standings. Toronto’s 6-game winning streak was snapped at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, but the Leafs’ 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh was Toronto’s second regulation loss over the course of 11 games.
STATS’ game preview helps set up tonight’s game:
Toronto (35-20-5) lost to the Penguins 5-3 in Pittsburgh on Saturday night to snap a five-game winning streak, while Detroit (24-24-9) defeated the Predators 3-1 in Nashville.
The Maple Leafs’ Patrick Marleau scored his 20th goal of the season — on the power play — to reach that mark for the 15th time in his career.
“I just try to play as consistent as possible and usually that stuff all evens out,” Marleau said.
He has seven points (three goals and four assists) in his last four games. Center Tyler Bozak and winger Connor Brown had a goal and an assist apiece for Toronto, while goaltender Frederick Andersen made 34 saves.
The game was tied 3-3 after two periods but Pittsburgh scored twice in the third.
“We generated a lot (The Maple Leafs had 32 shots), but three or four of our best chances, I don’t think we got a shot on net,” said Toronto coach Mike Babcock, who formerly coached the Red Wings and won more games than any other coach in the franchise’s history. “In saying that, it was a high event game, I didn’t think either team handled the other team’s forecheck that good, there was a lot of speed out there. If you’re a fan, you had to be entertained with the racing around.”
NHL.com’s Wes Crosby chronicled Saturday night’s Leafs-Penguins game…
Andersen made 34 saves for Toronto (35-20-5), which had won five straight. The Maple Leafs are in third in the Atlantic Division, six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and three behind the Boston Bruins.
“You want to be playing well against these teams,” Andersen said. “We were close to winning again today, but these are good teams. So, sometimes you’re going to get the short end of the stick. But it’s positive we’re playing well, but we have to keep working.”
Olli Maatta sent a slap shot past a screened Andersen to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead at 7:56 of the third period. The goal was Maatta’s first in 26 games. Rust extended the lead to 5-3 at 16:36.
Hagelin scored to make it 1-0 at 3:23 of the first period, redirecting a pass from Rust from between the circles. Connor Brown tied it 1-1 at 6:41 with a one-timer from in front after James van Riemsdyk sent him a pass from behind the net. Tyler Bozak gave Toronto a 2-1 lead with a backhand off a rebound at 10:40.
Zach Aston-Reese gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead at 5:21 of the second period when he used his skate to kick a rebound to his stick and scored on the backhand.
Patrick Marleau tied it 3-3 with a power-play goal at 15:46. The goal gave him 20 for the third consecutive season.
“It’s better when those goals get a win. It’s a little more enjoyable,” Marleau said.. “If you give [the Penguins] chances, turnovers, stuff like that, they’ll capitalize. If you limit those, you give yourself a better chance.”
As did the Associated Press…
“We were close to winning, but sometimes you’re going to get the short end of the stick,” Andersen said. It’s positive that we’re playing well, but we have to keep working.”
Hagelin scored the game’s first goal on a re-directed pass off the rush for his seventh 3 1/2 minutes in, and Brown tied it when he beat Murray to the blocker side with a one-timer for his 13th a little more than three minutes later.
Bozak gave Toronto the lead with his ninth midway through the period when he converted a rebound from the top of the crease and Malkin tied it 1:11 later with his 33rd of the season and point No. 900.
Aston-Reese put Pittsburgh in front at 5:21 of the second period when he settled a rebound in front and pushed it past Andersen’s outstretched left pad for his third goal in three games.
Marleau tied it 3-3 with a power-play goal from between the circles for his 20th with 4:14 remaining in the second.
Maatta provided the game-winner in the third and Murray helped the Penguins pick up another win at home.
NHL.com posted a 4:53 highlight clip from the game…
FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
The extra push: Both clubs arrived late in Detroit after playing in road games on Saturday night — the Maple Leafs in Pittsburgh and the Red Wings in Nashville. An early lead might help, considering the game could lean toward attrition if there is fatigue on both sides. The Wings are mediocre at home, compiling a 12-11-7 mark in their new rink.
Among Auston’s fave opponents? Auston Matthews entered Saturday with three goals in seven games, and no matter how he did in Pittsburgh, might have been anticipating the match versus the Wings. With six goals in five games against Detroit, Matthews has scored more against only Ottawa (seven). Matthews has a 40% (!) shooting percentage vs. the Wings.
Killing them softly? The Red Wings went into their game against the Predators with a bad run on the penalty kill, as they had allowed 16 goals in the previous 50 opponent power plays. “I think we’re a little too hesitant,” defenceman Jonathan Ericsson said. “We’re not confident in what we’re doing.” The Leafs’ power play was 12th on the road before Saturday.
All evened up? Every NHL coach wants his power play to produce better than it does, but a truer measure of a player’s worth is his contribution during five-on-five play. William Nylander (on the ice for 54 goals while playing five-on-five) and Matthews (52) were one-two in that category in the NHL. Matthews’ 24 goals at even strength were tied for second.
Curtis in control: The Leafs have a respectable record of 5-4-1 in the second game of back-to-back sets and backup Curtis McElhinney has been a significant factor. McElhinney has been sharp behind Frederik Andersen and has won his past three decisions, with a shutout in his previous start, on Feb. 1 in New York versus the Rangers.
Koshan also posted the Leafs’ lines:
MAPLE LEAFS LINES
Zach Hyman-Auston Matthews-William Nylander
Patrick Marleau-Nazem Kadri-Mitch Marner
James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Connor Brown
Leo Komarov-Dominic Moore-Kasperi Kapanen
Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev
Morgan Rielly-Ron Hainsey
Travis Dermott-Roman Polak
It is incredibly unlikely that either team will hold a morning skate, so we won’t know who starts for Detroit or whether Mike Green is OK to play until warm-ups.