The Toronto Maple Leafs keep making things difficult on themselves. After coming off a long road swing and allowing multiple-goal leads to evaporate in four of the six games, the Leafs returned to an empty Scotiabank Arena, jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but could not hold the lead for a regulation win. Jason Spezza and Auston Matthews tallied in the shootout for a 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares scored for Toronto, as they went 3-for-4 on the power play in the contest and pummeled Ducks goalie John Gibson with 44 shots, but the All-Star netminder kept the Leafs at bay at even strength and allowed his club to stay in the game.
Jack Campbell made 17 saves for his 20th victory of the season, but the Toronto goalie did not appear sharp in his 29th start until stopping two of three opportunities in the shootout to give the Leafs their second straight win and move them to within eight points of Florida and six points of Tampa Bay with four games in hand on both.
“I had no issues with our game today. There are things every game that you want to do better but for the most part, I liked a lot about our game.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the victory. “I thought we controlled the play for most of the game and the only thing we needed to do was score at 5-on-5. We had a lot of chances, their goaltender was good, but we didn’t finish on those opportunities so I think that is something we would want to do better of course but our penalty killing was good when it needed to be, our powerplay was outstanding.”
Although Campbell is bound for the All-Star Game and is having an excellent season overall, there has been a significant drop in his performance since the Leafs red-hot November. Since December 1, his record is 8-2-2, but his goals against (3.12) and save percentage (.898) are below average.
This could simply be a symptom of a heavier-than-expected workload, but Keefe more than likely will fall back on the plan that Toronto was expected to follow to start the season, which is more of an even split between Campbell and Petr Mrazek.
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