The Toronto Maple Leafs responded with a more energetic effort at both ends of the ice against the Colorado Avalanche, but in spite of getting solid goaltending from Frederik Andersen in the second of back-to-back games, the club was unable to break through offensively in a 3-1 loss at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.
Zach Hyman scored for Toronto in the second period, erasing Nathan MacKinnon’s power play goal in the middle frame, but were unable to bounce back from Valeri Nichushkin’s third period short-handed goal, made possible by some confusion between Jason Spezza and Morgan Rielly in the Avs zone late in a Leafs power play.
“(It was) a tough play. I'm coming downhill, I got a good look at the net (and my) stick breaks, I'm going to the bench and then I hear somebody yell the puck is coming, so I make a split second decision to play it and [Rielly] yells that he's there.” Spezza said after the game. “I kind of just froze to try to not get in his way and, in turn, got in his way more. That game falls on me now. I thought we were playing good up to that point.”
Andersen was sharp in a 29-save effort after demanding to play on consecutive nights for the first time in nearly three years, but the Leafs were stymied by Philipp Grubauer, who made 38 saves on the night.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe was not shy about shaking up his line combinations and defensive pairings to jump start the offense, putting together Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander for a few shifts during the game and put together Morgan Rielly and Tyson Barrie for regular strength shifts and offensive zone face-offs. The Leafs were forced to scramble their combos in the second half of the game, as Andreas Johnsson did not return after blocking a shot.
“Losing Johnsson, it does change things quite a bit. We're trying to get a spark and trying to score and trying to move things around,” Keefe said after the game. “I do intend on moving things around a little bit with those top guys in particular, but probably not as much as I had to there in the third.”
Keefe indicated that Johnsson’s injury was not serious and that he did not expect the winger to miss any time. Prior to the game, the Leafs sent defenseman Martin Marincin and forward Nic Petan to the AHL Toronto Marlies and moved forward Trevor Moore to LTIR to make room for Marner’s salary. That means that the injured winger will not be eligible to be activated until next week.
Toronto is currently at 21 players on their roster and will have to make room for Moore as they are less than $50,000 under the league’s salary cap. Rookie Pierre Engvall is waiver exempt and could freely be moved back to the Marlies, but the lanky winger has played well in eight games with the Leafs.
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