There have been times this season when the Maple Leafs felt they deserved a better fate on home ice.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday.
Frederik Andersen was stellar in making 36 saves as Toronto survived a spirited Vegas onslaught to defeat the Golden Knights 3-1.
The visitors had 82 shot attempts compared to the Leafs’ 40, including a 40-13 edge in a second period where Toronto barely touched the puck.
“We didn’t get on the forecheck,” Leafs winger Mitch Marner said. “Freddie Andersen has been unbelievable for us every single game.
“He’s the reason we stole one tonight.”
Connor Brown, with a goal and an assist, Marner and Nazem Kadri, into an empty net, scored for Toronto (10-5-0), which came in just 3-5-0 at Scotiabank Arena compared to a perfect 6-0-0 on the road.
“We got fooling around with the puck and they showed us how fast they were,” said Toronto head coach Mike Babcock, whose team registered a season-low 21 shots. “We were lucky to get out of the second.
“When you look at this game, it’s kind of like when Pittsburgh (3-0 on Oct. 18) left here with the points or Dallas (2-1 on Thursday) left here with the points. You thought you had done enough to win and you didn’t.
“Tonight the shoe is on the other foot.”
Cody Eakin replied for Vegas (6-8-1), which got 18 stops from Marc-Andre Fleury.
“A lot was real good,” Knights head coach Gerard Gallant said. “I liked the way we came in here and played against a real good Toronto team.”
Down 2-1 after that lopsided second, the Knights had a couple of opportunities to tie the score early in the third only to see Andersen shut the door.
The Knights, who got winger Max Pacioretty back from an upper-body injury, but are still without centre Paul Stastny, lost another forward when Erik Haula went down with an apparent injury to his right leg five minutes into the third.
Haula, who collided with Patrick Marleau on an innocent-looking sequence, stayed down for a few minutes before being stretchered off.
Gallant said afterwards the team would know more Wednesday, but added: “It didn’t look good.”
The Knights’ 28th-ranked power play got a chance with under nine minutes left, but was unable to find the range on Andersen.
Fleury made nice stops on Marner and John Tavares before Andersen thwarted a Rielly Smith effort from the goal line with his arm and body with 2:33 left.
Vegas kept its foot on the gas with Fleury on the bench for an extra attacker, but couldn’t get much in the way of pressure before Kadri scored his fourth into an empty net.
“It’s very frustrating,” Vegas defenceman Shea Theodore said. “We’re starting to play more of our style and we’re starting to play a better game, but we’re not burying those chances.”
Despite the lopsided shot clock, Andersen credited his teammates with getting him clear looks at the majority of the attempts on goal.
“We’re keeping a little bit more to the outside,” Andersen said. “That makes my job easier.”
Coming off Saturday’s 5-0 victory in Pittsburgh that saw Andersen stop 31 shots to snap a two-game slide, the Leafs went up 2-0 just nine seconds into the second when Marner beat Fleury over the blocker with his fifth.
So far unable to recapture the magic of its expansion-season run to the Stanley Cup final through the first five weeks of 2018-19, Vegas took over the period from there and finally broke through when Theodore fired a shot that Eakin tipped home for his fourth at 11:22.
The Knights’ 30th-ranked attack, which came in averaging a paltry 2.29 goals per game, kept coming, with Andersen stopping Haula on a 2-on-1 break.
Haula had another chance at the side of the net as the Leafs desperately hung on as wave after wave of Knights forwards darted around the offensive zone.
Fleury flashed his glove at the other end on Andreas Johnsson and watched Kasperi Kapanen whiff on a great chance before Ryan Reaves hit the post — the visitors’ third of the period — on a shot that knicked off Andersen in what was Toronto’s worst 20-minute stretch of the season.
The Leafs had gone five straight at home without scoring in the first two periods, but Brown put an end to that streak at 5:30 of the first.
The winger stripped Knights defenceman Nick Holden before firing a quick shot over the glove of a surprised Fleury for his second to snap a 10-game goal drought.
“It’s nice to come away with two points,” said Brown, who is among the Leafs being counted on to provide secondary scoring with Auston Matthews out with a shoulder injury. “But I think we see some things we want to improve on from tonight.”
© 2018 The Canadian Press