Maple Leafs quit singing Blues, then traded threesome with Arizona

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William Nylander has had its ups and downs like the Stockholm stock market – just like many volatile Maple Leafs.

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The negatives eventually overwhelmed the positives and put Toronto in the red against the Blues, a counter-rushing team as well as any NHL powerhouse. St. Louis emerged 6-3 winner at Scotiabank Arena, with the Leafs completing a three-man deep trade with Arizona after the game.

Nylander scored twice for the Leafs after a long drought that had produced only two goals since New Years Day. He also wore the goat horns during another call from too many men in Toronto. But he wasn’t alone, with coverage and turnovers a problem across the team all night.

“We fought back well to equalize (3-3) early in the third and just lost our man,” Nylander said of Brandon Saad’s winner.

Nylander’s line was on for that goal, but defenseman Timothy Liljegren fed the puck to the Leafs’ blue line, an error ending in a trick pass and Jack Campbell waving unsupported.

On another 2-on-1 goal, Campbell stretched out to make a great save on the pad, but Brayden Schenn was still alone to hit his own rebound as he lay on the ice.

“Jack has no chance of being good tonight,” coach Sheldon Keefe said dismissively of his team’s inability to manage the Blues. “He gives five (and an empty net) but some of them were gifts.”

Long after his comments, the Leafs announced they had acquired veteran forward Ryan Dzingel and defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin from the Arizona Coyotes for inactive forward Nick Ritchie and Toronto’s third-round pick. in 2023 or a second-round selection in 2025.

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The 6-foot-2, 208-pound right-handed Lyubushkin has nine assists in 46 games this year as Ritchie’s unproductive experiment comes to an end and he emerges from AHL limbo. It’s unclear whether the new duo will arrive in Montreal in time for Monday’s game against the Canadiens.

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Saturday was a sloppy start for Leafs defensemen and for Campbell. He left a big blocker rebound for Blues sniper Pavel Buchnevich, a rush generated by GTA graduates Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Then came a 2-on-1 pass from popular ex-Leaf Tyler Bozak to Klim Kostin, who picked the far corner.

Campbell calmed down and Nylander twice managed to solve Ville Husso, a fine Finn currently leading the league in goals against average. Nylander escaped on a delayed first-half penalty and also gained speed on a pass from Alex Kerfoot to equalise. But that was answered 29 seconds later by Schenn.

After 15 games without a goal following his blistering start in January, defender TJ Brodie went on a run past a partially masked Husso.

“We knew they were a rushed team,” said a glum Brodie. “Three or four guys, a second wave coming.”

A tip from Ryan O’Reilly on a point kick got him off the hook.

The Blues seemed to get away with a minor on the bench after the Leafs were flagged again. Nylander thought his mate was at the gate before he touched the puck, but all those brain cramps from too many men annoy Keefe.

“We’ve had it in different circumstances and sometimes things happen,” Keefe said. “Sometimes they are bang-bang, but this one tonight wasn’t good. We had more than enough time to figure out what was going on and let that puck through.

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None of the night’s goals were on the power play, with the league’s top two units only getting one chance each. The Leafs’ opportunity came after Torey Krug got an extra minor while battling Michael Bunting.

With the attempt to add Adam Brooks to the roster this week thwarted on the waiver wire by Winnipeg, Liljegren was reinserted as the 21st man on the roster and returned to the roster as a partner to Jake Muzzin. Sandin returned to the left side after a game on the right with Justin Holl, while Travis Dermott sat.

The Leafs will practice Sunday before games against two current non-playoff teams, Montreal and Columbus, continuing to work out unfinished business on the COVID-19 cancellation schedule around Christmas.

It was the second game at SBA with half capacity since the most recent pandemic regulations were relaxed, with a reported crowd of 9,098.

Since just before the SBA opened in 1999, the Blues are now 14-1-2 in 17 games in Hogtown. They were also missing injured top scorer Vladimir Tarasenko.

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