On Monday night in Toronto, the Colorado Avalanche jumped on a Maple Leafs team struggling with confidence and rode a second period comeback to an eventual 6-3 victory. Carl Soderberg earned his first career hat trick with a goal in the second, third, and an empty-netter in the final minutes to seal the deal.
The 158th hat trick in franchise history was also the second of the season; Gabriel Landeskog scored three against New Jersey back in October. Soderberg is the oldest player to score his first hat trick for the franchise since Andrew Burnette scored three on the Edmonton Oilers back on December 19th, 2006. Brunette was also 33-years-old at the time.
It was a pretty comfortable night for the Avs, who out-shot their opponents 38-20, and were leading 31-13 at one point to boot. The advanced numbers were just as good for the road warriors. The Avalanche carried 61% of the shot-share, despite being ahead or tied for all but four minutes in the game.
Colorado’s top line of Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen were hard-matched by Leafs head coach Mike Babcock against the John Tavares, Mitchell Marner, Zach Hyman line for the majority of the game, but still came away with 70% of the shot share. They also out-scored that line 2-1 on the night. A big win.
Semyon Varlamov was fantastic in the first period, stopping a few really good chances, but as the game went on, he came back down to Earth. Luckily for him, the Avs picked up their play in front of their starting goalie immediately after falling down two and really limited the chances against while scoring three unanswered goals of their own. Varly ended the night stopping 17/20 for an .850 save percentage.
On the Leafs’ side, defenseman Jake Gardiner was subject to booing from his own fans after a mistake-riddled effort against Soderberg for his first goal. Did I mention it was during a Leafs power play? Gardiner has been subject to Toronto’s wrath in the past (think Game 7 vs. Boston in the first round last season), and this game was no different.
Marner said he wasn’t listening for the boos during the game, but looked visibly upset when informed about it in the scrum.— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) January 15, 2019
There were no goals in this period, but Varly stood tall, stopping William Nylander with big saves at what probably is an agonizing rate for the young Swede.
Nylander gets two great looks on the PP, but Varlamov comes up huge. pic.twitter.com/VVjsGoZqZz— Flintor (@TheFlintor) January 15, 2019
Marner also got around Nikita Zadorov in uncomfortably easy fashion later in the period, but Varlamov once again came up huge. Zadorov took both penalties against the Avalanche in this game, but the penalty killers — led by Varlamov — were able to repel both instances.
Rielly with a great stretch pass to find Marner for the breakaway. Varlamov closes the 5-hole. pic.twitter.com/yc0g5gSWHl— Flintor (@TheFlintor) January 15, 2019
This was a pretty weak goal for Varlamov to give up. There was a screen set up in front of the net with Samuel Girard and Kasperi Kapanen passing through the shooting lane, but that Igor Ozhiganov shot should never have gone in.
The Leafs technically scored three goals in this period, but Jared Bednar helped his goaltender with one of those by challenging for offsides on a Par Lindholm goal and winning.
Since the clock went back to the time of the offside, and there was so much time between the offside call and the Lindholm no-goal, the Leafs were actually able to score on the next shift at a time earlier than the first time they tried. This time, it was Kapanen getting the puck at the side oft he net and roofing it up and over Varlamov, who was too slow to notice that the puck was on the other side to make the save. Girard was once again the victim of getting caught out of position.
Captain Gabe got the Avs back within one with a gorgeous tip on a Tyson Barrie shot. Honestly, it was unbelieveable. He was able to bring the puck two or three feet to its left, and bounce it off the ice, while keeping it going fast enough to fool Frederik Andersen in the net.
Not long after, Nazem Kadri was trying to leave his own zone with possession when Rantanen stripped him with a perfect stick check before walking in on Andersen and sniping on him. The 22-year-old got his 21st goal of the season for his 69th point of the season. Nice.
Soderberg completed the second-period comeback with an incredible effort shorthanded. Soderberg was a menace on the kill all night; the Leafs really struggled to get to the middle of the ice. This was also the goal that caused the aforementioned booing by the fickle Leafs on Jake Gardiner. Sorry (not sorry) about that...
Six minutes into the third, Travis Dermott fed Marner with an increadible stretch pass that Marner converted with a snipe to the far side on his off-hand. Should Varly have had that? I’m willing to let the comments decide.
Big ‘Ol Carl gave Toronto one final dagger to the heart halfway through the final frame. This line of Soderberg, Colin Wilson, and J.T. Compher embarrassed the Leafs in terms of their work-ethic, and this goal was a prime example. Erik Johnson started the play with a great move on net, and then held the puck for his forwards to come and support. Wilson then took over and did a great job of protecting the puck from Frederik Gauthier. From there, it was Compher’s turn to feed Soderberg in the low slot for a great scoring chance and a goal. Keep this line together! It was great!
The Empty-Netters (5-3, 6-3)
The Leafs pulled the goalie early with over three minutes remaining, but got burned by that choice pretty much immediately. Matt Calvert was just trying to bounce the puck off the boards so his tired linemates could get a change, but he ended up sending the puck directly into the net for his seventh goal of the season.
Soderberg then completed his hat trick with a second empty-net goal, this time with a little less than two minutes left int he game. From there, it was curtains.