Lance Hornby – stcatharinesstandard.ca
It seems whenever the Desert Dogs come to Toronto, they drop a cold front on the Maple Leafs.
What looked like a mis-match on paper, the Leafs on a six-game winning streak at home against the NHL’s last-place club, turned into a much tighter affair, a 4-1 result decided by power play goals, two by the Coyotes to the Leafs’ one – and a coach’s challenge that reversed an Auston Matthews tying goal with 3:50 to play. Matthews, fired up against his hometown team, later hit the post.
Thus ended the attempt to match the seven victories last compiled here by Pat Quinn’s Leafs in 2004-04 and Frederik Andersen’s bid for three straight shutouts.
Arizona, whose wins over the Canadiens and Senators earlier on this Eastern road trip no doubt had a few in Leaf Nation sniggering, picked up points in an eight consecutive game at the Air Canada Centre (7-0-1). Coach Rick Tocchet’s team have hardly looked like pushovers.
“It was pretty frustrating for awhile,” said Coyote forward Max Domi. “But we stuck with it and knew it was going to come. We’re playing good hockey right now and everyone is going. We have to find a way to put everything else behind us.”
Monday’s result spoiled Matthews’s 100th NHL game as Toronto’s leading scorer celebrated what he thought was the equalizer, sweeping around in front and going up top. However the Arizona bench successfully argued Zach Hyman had bumped goalie Antti Raanta. Domi and Tobias Rieder had empty netters.
Matthews was blanked, while Clayton Keller had two points to stay in the race atop the rookie scoring parade and perhaps follow Matthews to the Calder Trophy table in June.
After rejecting the idea of keeping Saturday’s jumbled lines together for another game after he managed the mixing bowl so well in Montreal, coach Mike Babcock eventually started flipping players in the third period trying to find a spark. Mitch Marner was back with Matthews when the rejected goal occurred.
Keeping the score close was Anderson, named NHL second star of the week before the game with a record of 6-1 this month before Monday. He made 27 saves, but Raanta slammed the door on Toronto at even strength.
“We can all speculate, but November seems to be kinder to him than October,” Babcock said of two straight uneven opening months since Andersen came to Toronto. “I don’t know why. Is it harder for the goalie to be ready at training camp? Or was it our team being so loosey goosey they didn’t care as much and wanted to race you to 10 (goals)? That probably led to it as well, but I don’t know.”
Andersen had begun the evening with 75 straight saves on as many shots and a chance at becoming just the third Leaf goalie since the start of 1930-31 to get three bagels. Lorne Chabot and Turk Broda (1950-51) were the others as posted by the Elias Sports Bureau.
But the slow-starting Leafs fell back into over reliance on their Danish defender and though he did make it to double figures in saves, the Coyotes broke his streak midway through the first period. Brendan Perlini, whose father Fred wore Matthews’s 34 among many others in his brief Leaf career, was alone near the end of a Connor Carrick minor. With the penalty killing tandem of Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey near exhaustion as Arizona kept the puck inside the line for a long stretch, Perlini collected his fifth with an assist to Keller.
Toronto, now at a season-high three games without a first-period goal, had one shot to that point, but did not allow any more that frame, with Nazem Kadri drawing a Kevin Connauton penalty in the dying seconds. That cost the Coyotes when the puck was dropped after intermission, Kadri assisting on James van Riemsdyk’s club-best fifth power play goal.
But with Mitch Marner off in the third, Arizona controlled the face-off in short order with a successful screen shot by Oliver Ekman-Larson. Zach Hyman took a high-sticking penalty before the period ended, but the Leafs managed to get back to their effective penalty killing alignment.
Toronto, fell to 1-7 when trailing after 40 minutes and lost for the first time when Kadri records a helper (1-8). They’ll practice Tuesday before road games in Florida and Carolina.