Blackhawks fought off late charge by Maple Leafs for wild 5-4 win
The Maple Leafs were encouraged by a chaotic comeback attempt that fell just short.
It was their first 40 minutes where they failed to answer the uncomfortable questions.
Brendan Perlini had a goal and two assists as the Chicago Blackhawks jumped out to a big lead. Before fending off a furious Toronto rally for a 5-4 victory on Wednesday.
The Leafs trailed 4-0 after a shambolic first that featured horrendous giveaways coupled with galling miscues in the defensive zone. It was 5-0 late in the second. Before they woke up and made the Blackhawks sweat.
The Leafs had a built-in excuse for Monday’s listless 6-2 home loss to the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning. The players got just one day off following a three-game road trip through Western Canada. But only had themselves to blame against an opponent that started the night 20 points back in the NHL’s overall standings.
“We just weren’t ready to play again. Came out flat-footed,” Toronto centre Auston Matthews added. “They’re hungry, they’re fighting for a playoff spot.
“That first period was obviously unacceptable.”
Brandon Saad, with a goal and an assist. While Duncan Keith, Dominik Kahun and Alex DeBrincat also scored for Chicago (31-30-9). Dylan Strome added two assists for the Blackhawks. Who have won four straight and remain four points off the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
Corey Crawford made 17 saves through two periods. Before leaving the game due to illness. Colin Delia turned aside 26-of-29 shots as part of a crazy third in relief.
Matthews, Morgan Rielly and Andreas Johnsson each had a goal and an assist for Toronto (42-23-5) in a sloppy, uninspired performance.
Tavares also scored for the Leafs. While William Nylander and Mitch Marner had two assists each. As the Leafs directed 95 shot attempts towards Crawford and Delia. Including 50 in the third.
Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 14 shots in the first. Before getting pulled in favour of Garret Sparks. Who finished with 24 saves.
Chicago went ahead 1-0 at 3:19 of the first when Keith’s blast was deflected by Nylander. The Blackhawks made it 2-0 at 12:55. When Perlini cut into the middle and whipped a knuckling shot on Andersen for his 12th, and fifth in the last four games.
Tavares then lost the puck at the offensive blue line. Leading to a 2-on-1 break where Patrick Kane fed Kahun. Who buried his 12th at 17:13.
Chicago made it 5-0 when Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev’s indecision led to DeBrincat roofing his 38th.
Toronto beat Chicago at the United Center in a wild 7-6 overtime affair back in October. However, they finally got on the board with 1:33 left in the period. When Rielly had his shot deflected in by Johnsson for his 20th.
Playing the 200th game of his career, Matthews brought the Leafs a little closer at 7:57 of the third when he banked in his 32nd.
Rielly made it 5-3 on the power play with his 19th to raise the temperature at 10:55 before the defenceman hit the post moments later.
Tavares then stuffed his career-high 39th past Delia with 1:31 left inside a raucous Scotiabank Arena.
The Leafs continued to press — Delia appeared to push the net off its moorings with under a minute to go during a mad scramble where he’d lost his stick — but the Blackhawks held on as both Matthews and Nazem Kadri failed to connect on late chances.