Maple Leafs win big in Vegas with 7-3 drubbing of Golden Knights

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY
It was a show of firepower for the star-driven Maple Leafs over the reeling Golden Knights.

LAS VEGAS–It was a weird one at T-Mobile Arena. The night started with hoards of fans being denied entry due to a ticketing issue and ended in a loss that is on the short list for the worst in franchise history. Because of the issue that originated on the AXS app, Toshiba Plaza was filled with fans as puck drop approached. It was even being speculated in the press box and amongst arena staff that a delay was looming to allow fans to enter the building, but the game started on time.

As it turns out, fans probably would have been better served just seeking a refund and going home. Before most Medieval Maniacs even made it to their seats, the Leafs were already ahead 2-0 and former Golden Knight Ryan Reaves had inexplicably notched his first point of the season for the Leafs with a primary assist on the second goal.

“We were light on the ice. We made some egregious mistakes, and they capitalized,” Coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “It’s up to the guys that have been here and done it, that have the resume to lead this team. We’ve talked about our leadership group over and over again and how good they are. It’s time to be good right now.”

How it happened

The Leafs opened the scoring at the exact midway point of the opening period after Jake McCabe’s shot deflected off Alec Martinez and past Adin Hill into the net. McCabe received credit for an unassisted goal and the rout was underway.

“I thought the first five, six minutes we had a pretty good start, but obviously they capitalized on a couple there,” said Martinez. “It (was) something we got away with in San Jose. We didn’t have a good start against Nashville and obviously didn’t have one tonight. You can’t do that in this league.”

Just 70 seconds later, David Kampf snuck the puck past Adin Hill’s outstretched skate with a crafty finish to put the Leafs ahead 2-0 with 8:50 remaining in the period. As I mentioned earlier, this was where former Knights’ enforcer Ryan Reaves tallied his first point of the season for the Leafs. This was much to the dismay of the Golden Knights crowd, who had unanimous boos when the scoring announcement came across the PA despite Reaves’ standing as a fan favorite while he was in town.

John Tavares salted the Golden Knights’ wound with 5:40 remaining in the opening period with a wrist shot that Adin Hill offered little resistance to. It was the final straw for Adin Hill, who was promptly given the hook by Bruce Cassidy and sat in favor of Logan Thompson.

Thompson wasn’t able to provide any immediate help. Less than two minutes after his entrance, Max Domi rifled the Leafs’ fourth goal of the game past his outstretched mitt and left the Knights with a 4-0 deficit entering the first intermission.

The Knights showed their first sign of life less than a minute into the second period when William Karlsson found the back of the net on a wrister that cut the deficit to 4-1. It would be the only sign they showed until the third.

Max Domi pushed the Leafs’ lead to 5-1 with 8:16 remaining in the second on a breakaway goal that was the result of a Knights turnover on the offensive period. It was Domi’s second of the night, with Simon Benoit and Mitch Marner getting credit for the primary and secondary assist respectively.

The Leafs brought a 6-1 lead into the second intermission after Pontus Holmberg added a goal for the Leafs from their fourth line. The game certainly appeared to be over at this point.

I say appeared to be because the Knights actually did muster a noble fight in the final period. Jonathan Marchessault and Michael Amadio tallied goals in near immediate succession to cut the Leafs lead down to 6-3 with nearly the entire period remaining.

The Knights continued to threaten in the early part of the period, with two more would-be goals deflecting off the pipes. However, Auston Matthews ended whatever comeback dreams had come alive with a tip-in goal off a Holmberg shot with just over eight minutes left. It was Matthews’ 52nd goal in just the Leafs’ 55th game of the season.

“Every time (Matthews) steps on the ice, you think he’s going to score.” said Max Domi. “He’s got so much confidence right now. He’s one of the best, if not the best player in the world.”

Up next

The Golden Knights open a two week-plus road trip in Ottawa on Saturday night. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m.