Maple Leafs Survive Red Wings – Kapanen Nets OT Winner

TORONTO — Kasperi Kapanen scored his second goal of the game at 1:53 of overtime as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 on Sunday night to head into the NHL’s Christmas break on a high note.

Kapanen’s winner squeezed through the pads of former Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier and had just enough to get over the goal line.

Morgan Rielly and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist, and Frederik Gauthier also scored in regulation for Toronto (25-10-2), which extended its winning streak to four games.

Garret Sparks made 26 saves for the Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs Morgan Rielly Kasperi Kapanen
Toronto Maple Leafs Morgan Rielly congratulates teammate Kasperi Kapanen (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Frans Nielsen, Filip Hronek, Michael Rasmussen and Christoffer Ehn replied for Detroit (15-18-5). Bernier stopped 19 shots for the Red Wings.

Down 4-3 and pressing for the tie, Tavares knotted things up with 7.6 seconds left in regulation when he tipped his 24th past Bernier off Jake Gardiner’s point shot with Sparks on the bench for the extra attacker.

Tavares then nearly won it a minute into overtime, but he shot high over Bernier’s net from in tight before Kapanen sealed it.

Tied 3-3 through 40 minutes, Nazem Kadri had a chance right at the end of a Toronto power play in the third period, but his redirection of a William Nylander pass hit the crossbar and stayed out.

Nielsen eventually snapped the deadlock with under eight minutes to go when he buried a rebound past Sparks, who was making his first start for Toronto since allowing five goals on 32 shots in Detroit’s 5-4 overtime victory at Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 6, with his seventh after Niklas Kronwall took the initial shot.

Detroit led 2-1 after the first and stretched that advantage at 9:53 of the second when Ehn took a long pass from Wade Megan before fighting off both Travis Dermott and Justin Holl and chipping a backhand up and over Sparks for his first NHL goal in his 22nd game.

A sluggish Toronto team got some life thanks to its fourth line 2:59 later when Gauthier snapped his first of the season off a pass from Par Lindholm. Trevor Moore, an emergency recall from the AHL Marlies after winger Tyler Ennis broke his ankle on Saturday, picked up the second assist for his first NHL point in his debut.

The Leafs, who came in having scored 18 goals during a three-game winning streak, then put their skill on display to tie the game with exactly six minutes left in the second. Tavares took a pass and drew the puck up between his own skates before whipping a feed to Rielly, who made no mistake upstairs on Bernier for his 13th.

Rielly leads all NHL defenceman in goals and points (44). He now has three goals and eight assists during a five-game point streak.

Related THW Content: Leafs on a Roll: Marner, Rielly, Marleau, Johnsson and Nylander

The Leafs got their first power play late in the second, but Kadri hit the post on a tip of Gardiner’s point shot.

Toronto got off to a fast start as the newly-formed second line of Kapanan, Nylander and Auston Matthews — which would be broken after just one period — connected just 27 seconds into the first.

Bernier was there to stop the initial shot from Matthews, but Kapanen outmuscled Red Wings defenceman Trevor Daley, who played the 1,000th game of his NHL career, for the loose puck to bang home his 13th.

Detroit got that one back at 3:45 on a horrendous defensive sequence from Toronto. Gardiner cleared the puck in front of his own net right to Hronek, who fired a shot that went off Sparks, off Nikita Zaitsev and dribbled over the line for his second.

Toronto got into penalty trouble from there with three minors, including a 29-second 5-on-3 man advantage where the Red Wings failed to capitalize.

But the visitors finally pushed ahead with 41.8 seconds left in the period on a delayed penalty when Rasmussen tipped a shot from Dylan Larkin, who hit the crossbar during an earlier man advantage, for his sixth as Detroit outshot Toronto 14-3 in the opening 20 minutes.

Notes: Bernier played three seasons with the Leafs from 2013 to 2016. … Holl drew into the lineup after 23 consecutive games as a healthy scratch. … Detroit centre Andreas Athanasiou (upper-body injury) missed his second straight game. … Toronto returns to action Friday at Columbus. Detroit hosts Pittsburgh on Thursday.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press