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Toronto Maple Leafs beat Panthers 5-3: Highlights and game recap – Pension Plan Puppets



Previously on Toronto Maple Leafs vs Florida Panthers the Maple Leafs hosted the Panthers in a crucial game to try and build a lead against the Panthers, but lost 5-3. Previously to the previously, the Maple Leafs went to Miami, took a day off, then played the Panthers and lost 8-4.

Wow, I’m having some good luck with these Panthers/Leafs games eh?

Tonight’s game began well with a shot from Timothy Liljegren off the post a minute in that has the travelling Leafs fans on their feet.

The Florida Panthers come quickly down the ice to the Leafs zone and once again Mark Pysyk scores against the Maple Leafs to give the Panthers the lead early on in the first period.

After this goal, former Florida Panthers draft pick Zach Hyman will score to put the home away from home crowd on it’s feet and tie the game:

With less than four minutes played, it’s 1-1.

Play continues, uneventful, until the Panthers skate into the Leafs zone following an Alex Kerfoot turnover, and Frank Vatrano shoots into Frederik Andersen’s pads and Mike Hoffman is there for the rebound, tucks it nicely into the open side of the net. 2-1 Panthers.

There wasn’t a lot of defending going on in this play, Liljegren kind of just watches it happen.

Then, chaos happens.

The Leafs aren’t controlling the puck in their own zone, or the offensive zone as shown above, and their inability to exit the zone with the puck rather than missing a pass or dumping it out, comes back to haunt them as Nylander misses a pass that gets to the blue line and the Panthers defenders, which has Keith Yandle getting the puck to Noel Acciari who scores his 20th of the season.

William Nylander does his best to try and get the Leafs back in the game, skating in one on one, but the puck gets away from him, and the play ends up behind the net.

The Maple Leafs will get the first power play of the game when the Panthers are called for too many men on the ice.

The Panthers penalty kill was doing a good job at clogging the centre of the ice, causing the Leafs to struggle to get the puck into the offensive zone, and denying them a chance to set up.

Colton Sceviour gets the puck and comes into the Leafs zone, drawing Andersen into the far side of the net, but he skates around the net and by some miracle he doesn’t score:

The Leafs struggle to get past the Panthers PK, but just as the power play ends, Kasperi Kapanen gets a shot from the circle under Sergei Bobrovsky’s pad and brings the Leafs within one of the Panthers. 3-2.

The Maple Leafs tie the game after Matthews rubs off the puck-holding Panther on the boards behind the net, sending the puck up to Nylander who passes to Zach Hyman, who sends the puck across the crease to Auston Matthews who gets goal number 3 for Toronto:

Travis Dermott gets boarded by Lucas Wallmark (uncalled) and he goes down onto the ice. Mackenzie Weegar cross checks Kapanen (uncalled) and the two get into a scrap after the buzzer goes for the period.

The first ends with the game tied at three goals each.

Funny enough, this is also how the second period starts.

The start of the second period features the Panthers taking two shots on net, and seeing just how far they can push things without getting a call.

The Leafs decide to play hockey, and they attack the Panthers net with a bouncing puck and Barrie, Sandin, and Matthews do their best to try and score.

Zach Hyman almost scores a bit later on, but Bobrovsky splits himself in half to try and cover the net after he loses his stick, and denies the Leafs a fourth goal.

Both teams are getting their moments in the game and things are being kept tight between the two. Halfway through the game the goals are tied, the shots are tied, and we’re moving up and down the ice in waves.

Auston Matthews hasn’t been afraid to use his body in this game. He did it ahead of the second Leafs goal, and he continues to push people around.

The Leafs are not playing passively at all, or giving up as much room to the Panthers as they did in the firs period. They’ve more than doubled the number of Panthers shots, and controlling the puck in all three zones. The urgency of this game is being felt by all of the players on the ice.

I mean, most of the Leafs feel this urgency. Some are panicking.

Despite the play of the Leafs, Sergei Bobrovsky has played to their level, denying every chance they take and keeping the game tied. This isn’t to say Andersen hasn’t been tested, but he hasn’t been nearly as active as his Floridian counterpart.

As we have only three and a half minutes remaining, Martin Marincin is called for interference, giving the Panthers their first power play of the game.

The Panthers get the puck into the offensive zone, but the PK duo of Zach Hyman and Mitch Marner get the puck and they almost connect to take the lead, but once again Bobrovsky makes the save.

The Leafs change PK units, and Pierre Engvall and Kapanen try the same trick as Hyman-Marner, but Kapanen shoots wide on the play. The penalty is killed, but the Leafs offense is not. They keep digging hard and Auston Matthews wins a puck battle on the boards, gets it to Tavares who shoots but can’t score and the period will end still tied at three each.

The second period was completely different from the first. It was just great to see the Leafs not collapse into themselves after going down 3-1, rally to tie the game and come out harder and stronger than in the first.

Neither of these teams are happy with each other, and the first minute of the period sees a scrum along the boards with Jason Spezza skating away with words for the Panthers. Andersen makes some saves before and after this, and the Panthers have added a bit of an edge to their game for the final frame.

The Panthers are also aware of the magic that is Auston Matthews and panic when they see he has the puck:

The Maple Leafs trap the puck in the offensive zone, with Justin Holl playing the role of border guard at the blue line, and we see Jason Spezza almost score, as the Leafs increasing pressure on the net. The Panthers do a good defensive job, and eventually end the cycle.

The Maple Leafs have another mad scramble in the Panthers zone that sees Matthews, Hyman, and Kyle Clifford all make attempts on goal. Martin Marincin almost misplays the puck out of the zone but William Nylander scoops it up and scores the Leafs fourth goal of the game to finally break the tie.

The Leafs start to get a little sloppy as the period ticks on, giving away the puck just a little more than they have been, letting the Panthers have a bit more room in front of Andersen. Nothing to really worry about, but that little worrying bit at the back of my mind was working itself up.

Neither team is letting up, taking their foot on the gas, and all that. Weegar, Pysyk, and Aleksander Barkov all push hard for the Panthers, while Auston Matthews continues his reign of dominance over these last two periods.

At the two minute remaining mark, Andersen makes a vital save, keeping the Leafs in the lead. The Panthers call a time out with 1:52 left in the game as my blood pressure rises. The Panthers keep Bobrovsky on the bench following the time out.

The Leafs win the face-off and get the puck to the neutral zone, but the Panthers keep the Leafs from getting an empty net goal. The Panthers get a couple good shots on Andersen (Yandle, Barkov), and the Leafs are struggling to get the puck out of their zone. A lot of struggles but they battle against the Panthers defense and Justin Holl makes a desperate dump out of the zone, and it manages to roll into the empty net, giving the Leafs a 5-3 win over the team they’re trying to keep ahead of in the standings.

It was a very good game to watch the Leafs actually fight back against a disappointing start (three goals on six shots), and maintain a lead despite hard pressure coming from the opposition in the final minutes.

The Leafs bump their points lead to four ahead of the Panthers, and get a stronger hold onto the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

The next Maple Leafs game is Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Can they make it three wins in a row?

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Olympic diplomatic boycott: PM says decision coming today – CTV News



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there will be an announcement later today on the government’s decision about whether to proceed with a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.

Speaking to reporters on his way into a caucus meeting on Wednesday, Trudeau said it’s important to align with allies – many of whom have chosen not to send government officials to the Games, but allow athletes to continue to compete.

“For the past many, many months we’ve been talking about our approach with allies around the world. We know that on issues like this it’s important to make sure that we are working with our allies…we will have an announcement to make later today,” he said.

The U.S. announced a diplomatic boycott on Monday as a means of protesting against human rights abuses in China towards the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that it “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

Since then, Australia and the U.K. have followed suit.

China has denied those allegations and says the boycott violates “the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto `more united,”‘ Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

Many former diplomats and international security analysts suggest Canada should go further and enforce a full boycott, withdrawing all Canadian presence, including athletes.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly also commented on the issue on Wednesday, noting that Canada is acting in a “diligent” manner.

“The most important thing for Canada right now is to make sure that we can have a strong voice on the question of human rights in Xinjiang in China,” she said.

With a file from The Associated Press.

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Nick Ritchie finally scores his first as the Leafs get the jump on the Blue Jackets – Toronto Star



In the understated words of Nick Ritchie: “It had been a while.”

On a night of highlight plays from Michael Bunting and Jack Campbell, and a scoring streak continuing for Auston Matthews, it finally happened for Ritchie.

It took 27 games and 40 shots but the $2.5-million-a-year free-agent signing finally got his first goal with the Maple Leafs in Toronto’s 5-4 win Tuesday night over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It felt good, helping the team, scoring a goal at home, and a win after a couple of losses,” Ritchie said. “It had been a while. Two months. A lot of games. As long of a (drought) as I’ve had in hockey. Feels good to get one. Hopefully I can build some confidence.”

The crowd was particularly supportive when public address announcer Mike Ross announced it was Ritchie’s “first goal as a Maple Leaf” and his teammates seemed happier than Ritchie.

“That’s almost better than scoring, seeing how much your team cares,” he said. “We have a tight team and everyone gets excited for little things.”


Ritchie had proven himself as a goal scorer, with 15 last year in a shortened season in Boston. He wondered sometimes why he was having trouble scoring in Toronto.

“It’s not an easy league to score in,” he said. “You have to get lucky, too. I had a couple of good chances the last little while. I just had to stay with it. I knew eventually it would finally go in for me.”

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said he predicted Ritchie would score Tuesday, but admitted he’s been predicting it would be Ritchie’s night for a while.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Keefe said. “I started calling it, then I stopped. It was his birthday the other day. But in the coach’s room before the game, I called it. I thought it would be on the power play.

“I can’t take a lot of credit for it, because I’ve been calling it and calling it. I did feel strongly that today was going to be the day. He’s been very quietly putting up points in the past five games. You could see it coming. He’s had good chances. I’m thrilled for him.”

About the game: Ritchie’s goal, the team’s offence and the play of Alex Steeves and Kristians Rubins. both of whom got into their first NHL games. was about all Keefe liked about the game. But it was a fun one to watch.

Matthews ended the night with two goals and an assist, Morgan Rielly had four assists, William Nylander had a goal and an assist and John Tavares also scored in a game in which the outcome never felt in doubt despite a late-game push by the Blue Jackets.

Olivier Bjorkstrand scored twice for Columbus. Sean Kuraly and Max Domi scored late for Columbus — Domi with one second left — to make the result look more flattering for the Jackets than the game really was.

“I didn’t like much about the game in any period,” Keefe said. “We found ways to strike offensively, whether it was on the power play (Nylander, Tavares) or off the rush (Matthews, twice) but, in terms of how we like to play, I don’t think there was a lot to like about the game.

“I’m happy the third period caught up to us, because it should have. Not a good game for us, but a good result. Needed to get back on the right side of it.”

Getting rest: Keefe thought the team was simply tired. They’d been out west for three games, came home for one, and then went back west for two, so it felt like a long trip. Plus the roster was in flux.

Mitch Marner missed his third game with a shoulder injury, suffered in practice Friday. Rasmus Sandin was out with the effects of knee-on-knee injury suffered Sunday in Winnipeg. Travis Dermott, too, was sidelined with a shoulder issue. And Jason Spezza missed the first-game of a six-game suspension for his knee to the head of Winnipeg’s Neal Pionk, whose knee injured Sandin.

“We’re a tired group that needs time,” said Keefe, who gave his team Wednesday off. “We’re a team that needs to regroup itself.”

Quick start: Nylander, Matthews and Ritchie got the Maple Leafs off to a 3-0 lead in a first period they dominated. The led the shot-clock 18-9 after 20 minutes.

Nylander scored on the power play, and Matthews made it 2-0 on a nice feed from Michael Bunting who, with a defenceman draped all over him, pulled off a between-the-legs pass to Matthews, who had an easy tap-in to extend his goals streak to seven straight games. Tavares and Matthews scored seven seconds apart in the final two minutes of the middle frame.

Matthews is on a tear, with 10 goals in his last seven games and 17 on the season. He has rejoined the conversation for the Rocket Richard Trophy, putting himself within striking distance of NHL goal leaders Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin, who had 21 and 20 as the games began Tuesday.

The new guys: Steeves and Rubins are feel-good stories.

Rubins, who is on Latvia’s short list of potential Olympians, is 23 and worked his way up the Leafs system. Undrafted out of the Medicine Hat Tigers, he started with the Newfoundland Growlers in 2018. He’s six-foot-five and cuts an imposing figure on the blue line.

“Dream come true, just a special night for me,” he said, after being paired with Timothy Liljegren and going minus-1 in 13 minutes and 40 seconds.

Steeves was a standout at Notre Dame last year who kept up his scoring ways with the Marlies, despite missing camp with an injury. Steeves had seven goals in 12 games with the Marlies.

“It was super special, really happy we got the win,” said Steeves, who was minus-1 while playing 8:28. “It was a tangible goal of mine to play for the Leafs this year. I didn’t really have a set date. To get the call this early was special. It wasn’t something I was really thinking about, but I just knew I wanted to get here.”

Roster notes: Veteran defenceman Alex Biega was also among the call-ups, as insurance, due to the litany of injuries. He was scratched for Tuesday’s game … Forward Joey Anderson was returned to the Marlies … Jake Muzzin left the game briefly in the first period after taking a shot off his foot.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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Maple Leafs support Spezza’s appeal, but must ‘press on’ after suspension –



TORONTO — The way Jason Spezza practised Tuesday morning is the way he always practises.

Smiling and laughing with his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates, you’d have no idea the veteran was only hours away from a significant suspension.

Spezza was slapped with a six-game ban midway through the Leafs’ win over the Columbus Blue Jackets for kneeing Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk in the head Sunday.

Through his 19 years and 1,203 games in the league, this marks the first time the 38-year-old Spezza has faced supplemental discipline.

And he is appealing the Department of Player Safety’s ruling.

“Look,” coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday night. “I think everybody in this room, everybody in the game knows the character and integrity that Jason Spezza has through his entire career. We do and always will support him. He’s going to weigh his options that he has in this process.

“But from our perspective, it’s important that we just press on here. That’s all we can do.”

Spezza’s initial appeal will arrive on the desk of commissioner Gary Bettman, who seldom overrules his own safety department. Next, Spezza and his camp could take their objection to an independent arbitrator.

These steps take time, and Spezza is available to return to action for the Leafs on Dec. 19 in Seattle.

During Spezza’s in-person (Zoom) hearing, the Maple Leafs argued that (a) this was not kneeing, (b) Pionk was eligible to be checked on the play, and (c) Spezza could’ve delivered a legal check had Pionk not fallen further toward the ice before contact.

Player safety agreed only that Pionk was eligible to be hit. Even so, the department maintains that the onus is on Spezza to get lower to deliver a clean hit and avoid head contact.

Player safety described Spezza’s actions as “reckless and retaliatory” for Pionk’s knee-on-knee hit of Rasmus Sandin earlier in the game, describing the Spezza hit as a “forceful retribution on a player who is in a vulnerable position.”

The department also weighed Pionk’s injury; the Jets announced the defenceman is in concussion protocol.

Though they disagree with the ruling, the Maple Leafs wish to avoid excuses or finger-pointing while Spezza sits.

“We’ve got to have guys come in and play and accept more responsibility,” Morgan Rielly said. “And I think we’ve got the depth to do that.”

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