Kessel, Bernier lead Leafs past Ducks for sixth straight win
By Chris Savard
It was a game that saw the clash of two of the hottest teams in the NHL and in their toughest test of the season the Toronto Maple Leafs skated to a 6-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The win was the sixth in a row for Randy Carlyle’s Leafs. Phil Kessel lead the way offensively for Toronto with two goals and an assist.
Stoney Point - December 17, 2014 - It was a game that saw the clash of two of the hottest teams in the NHL and in their toughest test of the season the Toronto Maple Leafs skated to a 6-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The win was the sixth in a row for Randy Carlyle’s Leafs.
Anaheim outshot Toronto 42-27 and Jonathan Bernier continued his strong play between the pipes. The Maple Leafs also got a strong performance from James Reimer last week in Detroit. Bernier made 40 saves to snap the Ducks’ eight game win streak and in the process earned second star honours.
Phil Kessel lead the way offensively for Toronto with two goals and an assist. With his performance tonight, he has now scored 11 points in his last nine games. He is on pace for a career high 45 goals this season and with some puck luck he could be come the first Toronto 50 goal scorer since Dave Andreychuk in 1993-94.
Tyler Bozak opened the scoring in the game scoring his 12th of the season at 15:12 of the first. Frederik Andersen let in a soft goal on a bad angle shot by Joffrey Lupul early in the second and the Leafs were up 2-0. Sami Vatanen pulled the Ducks to within one, with a short handed goal later in the middle period.
The third period belonged to Toronto as they outscored Anaheim 4-1. David Booth scored his first in Blue and White and Nazem Kadri continued to show signs of turning his season around with a nice goal early in the third. Kadri now has 11 points in his last 10 games.
Ryan Kesler scored for Anaheim to move the game to a two goal margin and the Kessel sealed the deal for the Leafs. Kessel put two quick wrist shots behind Ilya Bryzgalov who came into the game in relief of Andersen.
Toronto’s powerplay went one for three, while Anaheim failed to convert on their two chances. The Leafs out hit the Duck 43 to 39.
Toronto is now 14-0 when scoring first this season. Further the team is 10-1-1 in their past 12 games, since a 9-2 home loss to the Nashville Predators on Nov. 18.
Toronto saw scoring from all four lines tonight, a fact that was not lost on Lupul.
"We're always going to be known as a skating and offensive team," Lupul said. "We're seeing a little bit different team from years past, obviously with the fourth line [contributing] so much and playing a bit better team defense. The penalty-killing has been better too. I certainly see a team that is getting more confident in close games and learning how to close them out."
In their six game winning streaks, the Maple Leafs have beat some very good hockey teams – Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, back-to-back wins over the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks.
The Leafs now face a tough test with eight of their next nine games on the road. The Air Canada Centre will play host to the World Junior Championships over the Christmas season. The Leafs are back in action tomorrow night as they travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes.
In his lifetime, Chris Savard has spent time as both an elected official and a hot air balloon pilot. As such, FULL OF HOT AIR seemed to be an appropriate name for this column. Savard will provide his thoughts on a number of topics including hockey on this site, as well as politics and local issues on OurHometown.ca. His opinion combined with $1.60 will buy you a medium coffee at Tim's! You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org