Peter Holland scored the shootout winner in his return to Toronto on Thursday night, less than a week after he was traded from the Maple Leafs to the Coyotes.
“You can’t really script it much better than that, to get the game-winner,” Holland said after the Coyotes 3-2 shootout victory. “I was joking with one of my friend’s dads who was in the tunnel after the game that I wished I’d done it in the overtime, but we’ll take it. It’s two points for our squad and it’s a good feeling.”
The 25-year-old had been a spare part for the Leafs this season, finally dealt to the desert last Friday for a sixth round pick. He tallied two assists in his first game with the Coyotes before notching the shootout winner in his return to Air Canada Centre on Thursday evening.
Auston Matthews scored his team-leading 14th goal and 23rd point in defeat. The Arizona native was facing off against his hometown team for the first time in the NHL.
Toronto dropped to 0-5 this season in shootouts and has lost six of the last seven games (1-3-3), including the past four on home ice. The club outshot Arizona 46-20, landing 85 attempts on goal to 59 for the Coyotes.
Mike Smith made 44 stops for the visitors.
“We’re real snakebitten around the net right now,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “Just keep grinding and it’ll go your way. Just keep doing good things.”
Peppering Smith with shots over a one-sided first period, the Leafs finally broke through on a power play with eight seconds remaining. Matthews fired from atop the right faceoff circle — a Tyler Bozak screen helping the shot beat Smith. It was the eighth goal in the last 10 games for Matthews.
He was especially excited before the game to face 40-year-old Shane Doan, the Coyotes long-time captain and one of Matthews’ favourite players as a kid.
“It’s always fun to score goals,” Matthews said. “Obviously you’re playing your hometown team so that’s kind of special, but I tried to not let that get too heavy on myself. Just go out there and play.”
Matthews is racing to catch up to Winnipeg sensation Patrik Laine for the rookie lead in both goals and points. Laine is tops among first-year players with 17 goals and 25 points.
The Coyotes got even after 70 seconds in the middle period when Jordan Martinook took care of a rebound around the crease. Andersen stopped the first and second shots, including a strong right pad save on Radim Vrbata, but couldn’t get in front of Martinook’s attempt.
Arizona jumped in front 2-1 about two minutes later with a five-on-three power play. Oliver Ekman-Larsson fired a shot from atop the right faceoff circle with Martin Hanzal offering a screen in front.
Arizona nearly extended its lead to two when Jamie McGinn pinged a shot off the post with the Leafs running around in their own zone.
Toronto rookie Mitch Marner evened it at 2-2 just over a minute after that. The 19-year-old, who entered the night without a goal in 11 games, whipped the shot by the glove of Smith for his eighth goal and 21st point this year.
He hadn’t scored since Nov. 17 against Florida. Marner trails only Laine and Matthews in rookie scoring.
The action turned testy late in the second when Schenn dumped Matthews in the corner of the Arizona zone. The two teams exchanged shoves and verbal snipes before Schenn went to the box for boarding and handed the Leafs a brief five-on-three advantage. They failed to score, landing only one shot on goal.
The Leafs contained the Coyotes, who own the league’s worst power play, during the four-minute advantage. Andersen stopped all four shots he faced.
Doan had a great chance down the stretch of regulation to give Arizona another lead, but his breakaway attempt was snared by the glove of the Leafs goaltender.
Smith then denied Matthews in three-on-three overtime, Matthews batting William Nylander’s passing attempt out of mid-air off the rush. The wild extra frame saw end-to-end action. Vrbata had a chance to win it in the dying seconds but his attempt struck the crossbar.
All three Leaf shootout attempts drew iron.