Toronto Maple Leafs top Senators with 4-3 comeback victory

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 20: Mitch Marner
COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 20: Mitch Marner /

Three unanswered goals in the third helped the Toronto Maple Leafs claw back from a two-goal deficit against the Ottawa Senators.

It was doom and gloom, followed by utter elation for Leafs Nation on Saturday night. Through two periods, it looked as though the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to drop their third game of the season to the rival Ottawa Senators.

The Leafs fought their way back in the third, though, and walked out of the Nations Capital with a 4-3 win.

Despite outshooting them 24-12 through the second frame, the Buds trailed by tw after a three-goal period from the Sens which featured goals from Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman.

Something needed to change, and quick. Enter Patrick Marleau, who came into the game with only two points in his last nine contests. The veteran winger reportedly came into the locker room in between periods with some fire and whipped the team back into form.

Auston Matthews said the team definitely paid attention to what Marleau was saying:

"“When guys like Patrick Marleau stand up and say something in the locker room, guys are going to listen. He’s a pretty soft-spoken guy but when he says something, you better listen up. I think that got the ball rolling.”"

Roll they did as Matthews led by example, cleaning up a rebound in the crease to cut the Senators’ lead to one just 2:53 into the third frame.

It didn’t take long for the Leafs to tie it up as Mitch Marner broke in and deked past Craig Anderson 1:28 after Matthews.

Marner started the game on the fourth line with Frederik Gauthier and Matt Martin. He was quickly switched to his regular line when the Leafs went down. Although many would be happy with the promotion, Marner said to reporters that he was just as happy to be back on the fourth line:

"I really am a big fan of playing with Marty, I think he opens up a lot of ice for me. Goat as well, he had a lot of really good chances out there tonight. I think our fourth line can be one of the best in the NHL. Those two really compliment each other well and it’s fun to play with."

The deciding factor in the game was ultimately a member of Mike Babcock’s defensive rotation, and, at times, his dog house.

At the 8:58 mark in the final period, Connor Carrick got the puck, walked the blue line, and threw a wrister on goal that beat Anderson high glove.

That goal marked Carrick’s third of the year and first in 10 games.

"“There was a lot going on. I saw Anderson trying to find where I was. I think they had a forward sprint out to take Dermott away. The lane was pretty open and I just tried to elevate it and get it to the other side of the pile because they’re a team that usually blocks pretty well.” Carrick said to reporters."

Babcock’s “rotation” — consisting of Carrick, Travis Dermott and Andreas Borgman — all played in Saturday’s game, but only because Morgan Rielly sat out with an undisclosed injury.

In general, they all played strong games, with no glaring mistakes from any. Jake Gardiner had the most responsibility of all, taking Rielly’s spot on the top defensive pairing alongside Ron Hainsey.

Dermott proved once again that he should never be a candidate to sit again. He set up a scoring chance early in the first that was eventually thwarted by Anderson.

Frederik Andersen had a rocky start, but closed out strong and helped the Leafs keep the lead in the third. After his controversial comments on Thursday, his teammates pulled out the win for their goaltender and likely avoided his wrath in the process.

Next: Patrick Marleau rallies team in moment of need

Celebrate tonight, Leafs fans. It’s back to the grind when the Buds take on the surging Colorado Avalanche at home on Monday night.