Leafs fall 2-1 in overtime to Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) and Toronto Maple Leafs centre Tyler Bozak (42) vie for the puck during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, March 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, March 18, 2017 10:37PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 18, 2017 10:54PM EDT
TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs came up just short of a big win over one of the NHL's top teams.
Ryan Hartman scored the winner with 17 seconds left in overtime as the Chicago Blackhawks downed the Leafs 2-1 on Saturday night.
Auston Matthews broke out of a goal drought in defeat, while Frederik Andersen was sharp with 37 saves. The Leafs (32-23-15) hold the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, now with 79 points.
The Blackhawks (46-20-5) increased their hold on top spot in the Western Conference, now with 97 points following their fourth straight win.
John Hayden scored his first NHL goal in the win for Chicago while Corey Crawford stopped 25-of-26 shots.
The Leafs, sporting historic green and white uniforms, were playing their first game at home after a three-game road trip which saw them scoop up a pair of wins. Chicago, the top team in the West and among the hotter clubs in the NHL of late posed a big challenge to that mini-run. The Blackhawks entered the night with victories in three straight and six of their last eight.
It was Toronto that got on the board first though, with Matthews ending a seven-game goal and point drought with his 32nd of the season. The 19-year-old hadn't registered a goal or point since Feb. 28 in San Jose.
Matthews inched to within two goals of Wendel Clark's franchise rookie record (34 in 1985-86) with the goal, set up by fellow rookie William Nylander. Nylander took a quick pass off by Matthews and then sent it right back to the American centre as he crashed the front of the net and redirected a shot through Crawford's pads.
Nylander set a new career-high by extending his point streak to seven games. The 20-year-old has seven points in that span and 51 points on the season -- tied for fourth on the Leafs and fourth among all NHL rookies.
The Blackhawks were the better team for much of the period, outshooting the Leafs 13-8 while grabbing the bulk of offensive zone time.
Reigning Hart trophy winner Patrick Kane had their best chance early, slipping into open space before firing a shot that was stopped by Andersen's blocker.
Andersen nearly allowed a goal in the opening minute of the second when he bobbled a shot from Jonathan Toews. He kept the Leafs in front until the midway point of the frame when Hayden evened the game at one. The play started in the Chicago zone with Brent Seabrook firing a long outlet pass to Toews.
Chicago's captain then found Hayden, a 2013 third round pick, who kicked the pass from his left skate to stick before beating Andersen with a shot high-glove.
Playing without injured forwards Marian Hossa (lower-body) and Artem Anisimov (lower-body), the Blackhawks kept controlling the action with waves of speed that seemed to overwhelm the home side at times.
Still, the Leafs had good looks of their own. Nylander ripped a shot off the crossbar at one point and Matthews later robbed by Crawford's blocker in the waning moments of the second period.
Matthews came close again to start the third, his shot from in tight denied by Crawford.
Andersen matched his efforts at the other end, keeping the Leafs even despite persistent efforts from Kane, Toews and Tomas Jurco. The former Detroit Red Wing was halted on a series of chances around the Toronto net.
The Leafs wore uniforms that paid tribute to an earlier era (1919-27) when the club was still known as the St. Pats. It's only the second time since the name change in 1927 that the uniforms have been worn -- the first time coming in 2002.