Sheldon Keefe’s debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs provided a moment of catharsis as the club responded in their first game under the new head coach with a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
Keefe took over as head coach Wednesday after Mike Babcock was fired and it apparently injected new life into his team. Hardev Lad of Pension Plan Puppets noted that the Leafs’ 70 shot attempts at 5-on-5 is the most the team generated all season, as the team came out flying.
Afterwards, captain John Tavares collected the puck and the team presented it to Keefe following the win.
It was a night of firsts for the Maple Leafs that extend beyond Keefe’s victory. Tyson Barrie - considered by many to the biggest beneficiary of Keefe’s hiring - scored his long-awaited first goal of the season on a pinpoint snipe.
Pierre Engvall - who made his NHL debut during Tuesday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights - scored the first goal of his career on a picturesque short-handed breakaway. In doing so, Engvall entered rare territory.
Pierre Engvall is the fourth @MapleLeafs player to score the first goal of his NHL career shorthanded (since 1933-34 when goals by type were officially tracked).— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 22, 2019
He joined Joe Klukay (Nov. 24, 1946), Leo Boivin (Jan. 1, 1953) and Wally Boyer (Dec. 11, 1965). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/LC7ZS2RByC
Engvall’s performance was lauded by his teammates as he received the Raptors’ game ball from Frederik Andersen - a token given to the team’s most deserving player in a winning effort.
It’s way too early to read into the 3-1 victory as predictive, but it may be the night where the Maple Leafs pinpoint where their season eventually turned around. For one evening, there was plenty to celebrate and that’s more than what could’ve been said of the entire season to date.
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