Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Ilya Samsonov shines as Maple Leafs end road trip with a 3-1 win
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
It wasn’t the result they were looking for on Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks, falling 6-4 despite a big push in the final 40 minutes of regulation. But the Toronto Maple Leafs quickly turned the page last night as they visited Seattle to take on the Kraken for the second and final time this season.
The game didn’t quite start how Toronto had hoped. Although it was a better start than the Canucks game, with both teams playing low-event with not many scoring chances being exchanged, Conor Timmins, who was put back in the lineup for the back-to-back, took a dangerous cross-checking penalty on Brandon Tanev, which put Seattle on the power play just 2:14 into the game.
After going one-for-three on the penalty kill against Vancouver, Toronto killed off the early penalty, limiting Seattle to zero shots on the net. Whether it was the successful kill or them looking like the better team early on, Toronto started to look more dangerous with some of their chances on Joey Daccord. Unfortunately, their shots were missing the net, getting blocked or absorbed by the netminder. However, that was until Auston Matthews had something to say. He pulled off another nifty move between his legs and backhanded his 38th of the season past Daccord for the 1-0 lead.
With a 1-0 lead roughly seven minutes into the game and Brandon Tanev out of the box after serving a penalty for roughing after being cross-checked into the boards by Timmins, he started to run around on the ice a little, and in doing so, flattened Timothy Liljegren in the corner. Jake McCabe, who isn’t shy to stand up for his teammates, didn’t like what Tanev had been doing and decided they would fight.
McCabe scored the takedown in a solid tilt between the two, and the period resumed. Seattle was awarded another power play after Max Domi was whistled for cross-checking, his second in as many games, but if we’re being honest, this one was a little controversial. Toronto did another outstanding job on the penalty kill, limiting them to zero shots again. And within all of this, Ilya Samsonov made another great save, his second in as many starts, keeping the game at 1-0.
Toronto entered the first intermission up 1-0 and outshot Seattle 8-6.
Even though Toronto easily could’ve been up by more than one goal heading into the second period, they’d gladly take a 1-0 lead over a tie game or trailing. It wasn’t a dominating period, but they looked good and defended well. If they wanted to continue to have success, they needed to translate that into the next period.
Toronto headed to their first power play of the night after Jamie Oleksiak was whistled for holding, and although they didn’t find the scoresheet, they continued to press the Kraken, looking to double their lead. Well, they did. After an unsuccessful power play, parts of the second unit were still on the ice, and they lit the lamp for the 2-0 lead. Tyler Bertuzzi chipped the puck into open ice for Max Domi, who delivered a sweet pass to Nick Robertson flying down the ice, and he one-timed his seventh of the season past Daccord just 2:51 into the middle frame.
The Maple Leafs continued to generate chances on Seattle’s end of the ice but couldn’t find the added insurance. They came close a couple of times, but similarly to the first period, some of their chances either missed the net, got blocked, or Daccord read them well. Nick Robertson, who already had one goal on the board, was sprung on a 3-on-1, and instead of firing a shot toward the net, dropped it for Morgan Rielly, whose shot was deflected out of play.
The Kraken eventually got on the board with a goal from Jordan Eberle with roughly six minutes left in the period. Ilya Samsonov didn’t see the puck that initially hit traffic in front, and it didn’t help when TJ Brodie and Morgan Rielly didn’t see the puck either, which made it easy for Eberle to pick up the loose puck and cut the deficit to one.
Toronto headed into the second intermission up 2-1 and outshot Seattle 17-13.
For what felt like the 100th time this season, the Maple Leafs entered the final period of regulation in a one-goal game, and this time, they were the ones holding onto the lead like in recent memory. They couldn’t afford to have a repeat like their last handful of games where they had blown many leads, ultimately losing them in regulation. They needed to maintain the lead, pick up the win, and head home with the two points in their pocket.
Well, if that was the game plan for them, which it obviously was, their start to the third period was as perfect as it could’ve been. They kept their foot on the gas, looking to shut down the Seattle offence and build on their lead. Over the last couple of weeks, they’ve struggled to build on their leads. As we know, it has hurt them by blowing one-goal and two-goal leads.
They did such a terrific job in the final period that Seattle didn’t record their first shot until there was 6:39 remaining in the game. Although Samsonov had to wait a while to see the rubber, he was tested with an incredible scoring chance and was up to the task, making an unbelievable stop.
The Kraken made a little push after finally recording their first shot with six and a half minutes to go in the game and ended up with four shots, but none got past Samsonov for a second time.
Toronto did a solid job in the final two and a half minutes applying pressure in Seattle’s zone. They were forechecking and cycling the puck so well, that the Kraken ended up pulling Daccord way later than they had hoped. After that great sequence from the road team, Jake McCabe iced the game with a 200-foot shot into the empty net for his fourth of the season, wrapping up an impressive 3-1 win for the Maple Leafs, ending their road trip with a 2-2-0 record.
Who stood out:
What a performance last night from Ilya Samsonov. Wow. He wasn’t tested much, having to make only 16 saves on 17 shots, but when he was tested, he was tasked with a handful of excellent looks from the Seattle Kraken, including that pad save in the third period with six and a half minutes to go. With his win last night, Samsonov picked up his second win since early December, and coincidentally, like that game against the Predators, he faced under 20 shots. Both of his latest wins have been met with a stellar defensive performance from the team.
Although he has been scratched a lot this season, Nick Robertson scored yet again, which ended up as the game-winner. Last night was only the sixth game he’s played since December 29th, and in those six games, he’s scored four goals. I don’t know if Robertson will play in their next game when they return home, but I think he earned another game. Keefe also had this to say about Robertson after the game.
I’m running out of things to say about Auston Matthews. After going goalless in Vancouver, he found his way back on the scoresheet with his 38th of the season, keeping his pace to finish the season with 70 goals. He has two games left before the All-Star weekend to hit the 40-goal mark, with both of them coming against the impressive Winnipeg Jets, who don’t give up a lot of goals.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Wednesday night when they return home to take on the Winnipeg Jets. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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