Published: Tue, January 03, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Leafs Hang On, Win Centennial Classic

Leafs Hang On, Win Centennial Classic

Gardiner ranks as the Leafs top driver of puck possession this season (54.6 per cent), leading the group with 24 minutes (including 10-plus in the third period) and 13 shot attempts in a one-goal loss to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night. It was a bright, sunny day - with a game-time temperature of three degrees - that made for a picturesque setting once the sun slipped behind BMO Field's renovated grandstands.

Auston Matthews scored in overtime as the Toronto Maple Leafs upstaged the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 in the Centennial Classic, while the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in a shoot-out.

If there was any doubt about what the Centennial Classic meant to hockey fans in the Centre of the Hockey Universe, the Toronto Maple Leafs got a sneak peak of what was to come Sunday when they arrived almost four hours before puck drop. And with 12 goals in his past 16 games, his rapid development has been fascinating to watch unfold.

"For the guy who scored the winning goal in overtime in an outdoor game to say something like that is pretty special". "But he's only going to get better".

The No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft is on pace for 46 goals, a mark reached by only six rookies in National Hockey League history - Alex Ovechkin the most recent in a mostly Hall of Fame group that includes Teemu Selanne (76), Mike Bossy (53), Wayne Gretzky (51), Joe Nieuwendyk (51) and Blair MacDonald, who was 26 years old when he tallied 46 for Edmonton. It doesn't matter who you play him against, he's going to compete. "I think he just realizes that that's my game and kind of ran with it I guess".

"I think they bring that spark and that life back into this team".

Matthews said he's not going to try and overdo it in his first game outside.

The Red Wings, once again the Leafs' outdoor opponent, have fallen on hard times and are not dissimilar to the Leafs of the past. "Anyone who has been in Arizona youth hockey rave about his character and work ethic". You've got to love the duress. "He'll be a leader, he'll be a captain of this team".

The Wings won their first Cup since 1955 in Shanahan's first season with the club and added three more by 2008.

Martin was quick to point out both the good and the bad from Sunday's win, but his emphasis was on lesson-learning and how the Leafs young roster can learn more about protecting leads. "This league is about getting points and we need to get them about as consistently as we can". "We're nearly at the midway point of the year and this group has come a long way".

"There is a bit of a balance that we can not do too many of these because we don't want to make it feel like it is not special". But when the scrap took place at 3:25 of the third period and the score tied at 1-1, the 40,000-plus at BMO Field didn't get out of their seats in unison because their rumps were cold. "The city is buzzing right now". Toronto met the Detroit Red Wings for the second time outdoors and proceeded to play a relatively boring game on the offensive side of the puck for the first two periods. He sought to emphasize team and tradition rather than the merits of any one player.

The big stage is one thing, and it promises to be a good show in front of an expected crowd of 35,000 down by the lake shore but after soaking up the atmosphere during a practice Saturday, the Leafs are ready to get back to business. "I'm giving them a chance to shut out the game", Babcock said.

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