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Kristen Shilton

TSN Toronto Maple Leafs Reporter

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Coming off an important road win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto Maple Leafs had all the momentum going into Wednesday night’s back-to-back against the Calgary Flames. But instead of coming out firing, they came out flat. Toronto spotted Calgary an early 3-0 lead that would hold until the final buzzer, dropping the Maple Leafs to 10-9-4 on the season. 

TAKEAWAYS

• This is the fifth back-to-back Toronto has played this season and they have lost the second game of each one. Their schedule includes a league-high 18 back-to-backs, and so far the Maple Leafs have toggled between struggling to find their legs, to seeing a lead disappear in the third period.

• Calgary improves to 10-1 vs. the Maple Leafs at home. The Flames had only three wins at the Saddledome this season going into Wednesday night.

• Despite getting down early, the Maple Leafs out-chanced the Flames 10-5 in the first period and outshot them 12-10. Toronto went on to outshoot Calgary 39-29 on the night, but Chad Johnson turned in a spectacular performance in net to keep the Maple Leafs off the board. 

• Calgary had the better of Toronto in the faceoff dot, winning 58 per cent of the draws. From the get-go the Maple Leafs were chasing their opponent and never found their way to a good overall rhythm, particularly in the dot.

Jhonas Enroth has not been put in optimal positions to succeed this season, getting all of his four starts on the second game of back-to-backs. He has yet to earn a win this season and that cold streak continued with a disastrous beginning against Calgary. It took only 49 seconds for the Flames to take a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Freddie Hamilton at 19 seconds and Kris Versteeg following up right after. The Flames were forechecking hard early and it caught the Maple Leafs off guard, to the tune of the early deficit. Enroth stabilized in the second half and was better the rest of the way, making several series of key saves to keep a comeback within the realm of possibility for Toronto. Enroth finished with 26 saves on 29 shots for an .897 save-percentage. 

• Toronto did start to find their game by the end of the first period. Tyler Bozak ignited a momentum-turning shift in the offensive zone for the Maple Leafs by getting the puck down low and finally putting some pressure on the aggressive Flames. The whole team’s transitional game was solid and they were forechecking like they did with so much success against Edmonton on Tuesday. Bozak’s line with Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk generated some good scoring chances in the second half, including a breakaway for Marner thwarted by a tremendous save by Johnson. Marner is among the best in the Maple Leafs’ lineup at sniffing out space and getting himself in the right position to make a play. He wasn’t able to do that consistently until near the end of the second period and the Flames did a good job early of keeping him contained.

William Nylander, who centered the fourth line for the first time on Tuesday, got a few opportunities to play with Auston Matthews early in Wednesday’s game as Mike Babcock looked for a spark with his team in a hole. By the second period Nylander was back with Matthews full time. The two rookies have solid chemistry and exchanged great feeds in front of Johnson, neither of which were buried. On one chance, Matthews got up after being hit, retrieved a puck and pulled off a spin move to put a puck on Nylander’s tape. The shot didn’t get through, but it was an example of how they are constantly able to find each other and have a great sense of where the other likes to be. Nylander had a fine game overall, and seems to have taken his slide down the depth chart to heart. He showed good drive and compete level consistently, which is what Babcock was hoping for.

• Matthews was among the only Maple Leafs who didn't falter much through 60 minutes. He was back-checking effectively well into the second period when many of Toronto’s other skaters looked gassed. It likely isn’t how Matthews imagined he would find the most success in the NHL, but staying down low and getting greasy chances has been more sustainable for him than using his blistering wrist shot. 

• On the game's third goal, Morgan Rielly didn’t get a stick on Michael Frolik along the half boards which allowed Frolik to feed Matt Stajan. But after the early miscue, the Maple Leafs’ best defenceman bounced back in the second period, stripping pucks with gusto and putting them through traffic on Johnson to create secondary opportunities. His active stick on the penalty kill helped to keep that unit perfect over the team’s last two games. Defensively it was a solid game through the last two periods for the Maple Leafs, who managed to keep the Flames mostly to the outside and gave up fewer opportunities from the slot than they did in the first. 

• Toronto's final game of the road trip isn't until Saturday in Vancouver, giving Babcock two days off to decide how his line juggling will translate for what's expected to be quite a showdown with the Canucks.