The Toronto Maple Leafs were red-hot entering a two-game set against the struggling Calgary Flames, but injuries, a lack of energy, and missed opportunities resulted in a 3-0 loss at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
Toronto were without Zach Hyman, Jake Muzzin and Joe Thornton, as well as goalie Frederik Andersen, who suffered a lower-body injury in the victory over Montreal on Saturday. Backup Michael Hutchinson was pressed into service and struggled early, allowing a weak goal to Sam Bennett early in the first period and power play markers to Matthew Tkachuk and Sean Monahan.
Calgary’s David Rittich frustrated the Leafs in a 34-save shutout effort, but Toronto did not take advantage of numerous opportunities with the man advantage going 0-for-7 with an overloaded top unit of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly, including a 1:36 five-on-three late in the second period.
“Clearly special teams were the difference here today. Special teams, because there were so many power plays both ways, there was no real flow to the game at all 5-on-5.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “(The Flames) get two power play goals and we get nothing to show for ours. They get a squeaker to start the game and that’s the game.”
After the game, Keefe did not elaborate on Andersen’s injury, saying only that he is day-to-day and that he did not know what would happen going forward. On Tuesday, the club practiced at the Ford Performance Centre in Etobicoke, ON without their starting goaltender, but with Hutchinson, rookie Joseph Woll and Jack Campbell for the first time in nearly a month.
Hyman, Muzzin and Thornton also did not skate, and unless there is a dramatic improvement over the next 24 hours, Leafs depth players such as Mikko Lehtonen, Nic Petan and Alexander Barabanov will get another test in the rematch with the Flames on Wednesday. Jimmy Vesey played only 6:51 in the game after getting elbowed in the first period, while Barabanov saw a season-high 11:13 in his eighth game of the season.
“I thought (Alex) had good jump from the early going in the game. He was on the puck. A strength of his game is when he gets to play in the offensive zone and I thought (William Nylander) had really great legs today and really got the puck there for that line.” Keefe said. “(Barabanov) did some good things. His game got stalled a bit just because there’s so many penalties and had to sit for long periods of time. I thought he had some good looks today, hit the post or crossbar there in the third. That was positive.”
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