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Game 2 takeaways: Matthews, Samsonov post career-best games to tie series

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Photo credit:Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
1 month ago
Auston Matthews authored the defining postseason performance of his career, Ilya Samsonov played his best game in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform and the series is tied at one apiece. Matthews’ tour-de-force performance against the Boston Bruins couldn’t have come at a better time, he hadn’t compiled a signature playoff game until tonight. Toronto’s proverbial back was against the wall while William Nylander remained out with a mysterious injury.
There is no need for further preamble! Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 3-2 win over the Bruins in Game 2.
Auston Matthews delivered the signature game of his career 
Matthews is in line to win his second Hart Trophy in three years and he displayed why he’s the best player on the planet. It was a game fraught with tension but Matthews was the constant, keeping the Maple Leafs’ alive with his constant inventiveness around the net. He excelled as a playmaker and recorded two primary assists, before notching the game-winner, while winning 70 percent of his faceoffs, recorded eight shots on 12 shot attempts, while using his physicality and frame to his advantage.
Throughout the contest, Matthews was relentless in the offensive zone. He won a puck back in tandem with Tyler Bertuzzi, fired a shot on net which created a huge rebound for Max Domi, who whacked it in for the game-tying goal. Morgan Geekie scored 14 seconds prior and the TD Garden crowd were ready to stomp out a seemingly moribund Maple Leafs squad. Matthews had other ideas. Toronto trailed 2-1 due to a series of errors and bad penalties, along with a horrific showing from Mitch Marner, but Matthews and his linemates never balked.
Bertuzzi appeared to have equalized the game during the second period, but the referees waived the goal off due to a high stick. It could’ve changed the momentum entirely but once again, Matthews rose to the occasion. Matthews threw a centring pass towards Calle Jarnkrok, who fanned on the puck but it went directly to John Tavares, who spun around, took a brief look at the net and expertly placed it past Linus Ullmark. Ball don’t lie!
It was a tense third period and Game 2 may be considered an instant classic — although who can really tell in real-time? Domi, who improved as the evening went on, floated a long-range pass from inside his defensive third. Matthews caught it in stride and raced past Bruins’ star defenseman Charlie McAvoy for a breakaway, before tucking the puck home for the go-ahead goal. He is the greatest goal-scorer of his generation but this was the most important tally of his eight-year career.
Matthews likely could’ve scored twice on his backhand were it not for Ullmark’s stellar performance. Boston almost tied the game in the dying minutes and Samsonov had no idea where the puck was, but Matthews came to the rescue and cleared it out of danger.
Toronto needed a defining performance from its franchise player and No. 34 delivered. Scotiabank Arena should be a madhouse on Wednesday.
Ilya Samsonov was outstanding and should remain the starter until proven otherwise 
Matthews is the headliner but the Maple Leafs are facing a 2-0 deficit were it not for Samsonov’s career-best game. Samsonov shook off a tough first period and responded with an outstanding performance in a hostile environment. He made a massive save on Jesper Boqvist in transition as the Bruins led 2-1 early in the second frame. He rotated well on one-timers — a point of emphasis for the Bruins, who actively got their defensemen involved from the point throughout the game. And he closed the door countless times in the third period, robbing Brad Marchand of what would’ve been the go-ahead goal early in the final stanza.
Samsonov was out of this world and did exactly what was asked of him: he made timely, game-saving stops when required and held the lead for the Maple Leafs after Matthews sent the Bruins scrambling. He was cool, he was composed and he’s absolutely the Game 3 starter. It’s been a tumultuous year to say the least but Samsonov should be entering Game 3 with unmatched confidence and swagger.
Bertuzzi, Domi respond from poor Game 1 showings 
Sheldon Keefe called out his first line — with particular emphasis on Domi — for their ill-advised penalties in Game 1. Message received! Domi and Matthews stayed out of the box while excelling throughout the contest for the Maple Leafs, outshooting their opponents 10-8 with a 72 percent share of the expected goals at 5-on-5 in 11:45. Bertuzzi was a magnet to the puck and was unfortunate not to convert on his chances — it appeared that he had tied the game at two apiece, but it was called off upon review for a high stick. Ullmark robbed Bertuzzi again during a second period power play and on another night, he may be walking away with two goals.
Domi’s value in the lineup lies as a playmaker and he was looking for open lanes throughout the game. He is particularly strong at making cross-ice and long-range reads, which paid dividends during the third period when he connected with Matthews on the equivalent of a 40-yard touchdown pass. He stretched the Bruins’ defense and he finished with a 74 percent share of the expected goals. We know Domi has The Passion. Tonight, it translated into something far more pragmatic and fruitful.
Jake McCabe and Ilya Lyubushkin’s horrible penalties almost cost the Leafs the game 
And now, to our least favourite part of the notebook: pointing out the negatives in a hallmark victory. Jake McCabe was a disaster in the first period. He took an ill-advised penalty in the first period, cross-checking Jakub Lauko after the whistle and the Bruins immediately scored. McCabe took a terrible line to the puck on David Pastrnak’s goal to close the first period, as Pavel Zacha nutmegged him with a terrific pass. He improved as the game progressed but McCabe’s brutal start to the game almost sunk the Maple Leafs.
Lyubushkin also took a silly penalty in the third period and once again, the Maple Leafs almost paid dearly. Bertuzzi was originally called for slashing but Lyubushkin got into the mix with Charlie Coyle and it was fortunately called as a 5-on-4. Toronto killed off the ensuing penalty. Performative toughness means nothing in the playoffs and the Maple Leafs need to continue to emphasize emotional discipline.
Knies-Tavares-Marner are getting cooked at 5-on-5
Tavares scored on the power play but his 5-on-5 play was largely uninspired. We don’t want to pick on Marner as the noise around him amplifies every spring, but he submitted one of his worst playoff games of his career. Matthew Knies looked completely galvanized last summer, coming out of college right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs but this immunity has worn off a year later. Knies-Tavares-Marner combined for a ghastly 12 percent share of the expected goals at 5-on-5. They were only outshot 4-3 but surrendered quality looks to the Bruins all evening. Marner, in particular, struggled badly on the penalty kill — although he is one of four Maple Leafs at fault for Pastrnak’s goal — and appeared to be uninspired as a playmaker.
This isn’t an effort level thing. Marner and Tavares were both considered prodigies as teenagers in the Greater Toronto Hockey League and have dreamt of lifting the Cup for their boyhood Maple Leafs for decades. It’s unlikely Bertuzzi-Matthews-Domi gets separated but Bertuzzi-Matthews-Marner were reunited to close out the game. If Nylander returns from his injury-related absence, the Knies-Tavares-Marner combination cannot continue.

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