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Matthews scores his 49th, Samsonov makes 19 saves as Maple Leafs sweep Blues with a 4-2 win

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Photo credit:Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
2 months ago
After picking up six out of the possible six points on their recent three-game homestand, the Toronto Maple Leafs began a four-game road trip earlier this afternoon in St. Louis for the second and final meeting of the season against the Blues.

First period:

Today’s game started a lot unlike their last meeting in Toronto last Tuesday night. Both teams were playing conservatively, not cheating for any offence in the early going, and outside of a couple of scoring chances from in tight – including another post for Auston Matthews – it was low event through the first 10-plus minutes, with the Blues narrowly leading the shot attempt battle 11-8.
The last 10 minutes of the first frame were more so like the first half. It was a pretty low-event period of hockey and quite boring. There were no penalties, so no one went on the power play, no fights, no goals, just a couple of solid saves, keeping the score even at zero.
It was such a low-event period of hockey that Sheldon Keefe rolled all four lines against the Blues. For example, the fourth line of Pontus Holmberg, David Kampf, and Ryan Reaves played more than 4:00, with Reaves (5:07) and Holmberg (5:11) over five minutes.
Toronto entered the first period tied 0-0 and tied in shots 6-6.

Second period:

The second period began the total opposite of how the first period started. The top line of Knies, Matthews, and Marner got things going right away on the forecheck with an innocent-looking dump in the Blues’ end of the ice. The St. Louis players on the ice stopped playing, thinking the puck hit someone on the bench, but in reality, it just hit the linesman. Toronto took advantage of that, and Matthew Knies undressed Colton Parayko on his way to the net, roofing his 10th of the season past Joel Hofer for the 1-0 lead just 22 seconds in.
The opening goal from Knies sparked Toronto because they kept their foot on the gas, looking for another one to get on the board. Although the opening period was more of an even period between the two sides, the bulk of the middle frame was similar to their last meeting, with Toronto outplaying St. Louis.
The road team got out to an 8-1 shot advantage after Knies scored his 10th of the season and even got a chance to continue their hot streak on their power play after Jake Neighbours got whistled for tripping William Nylander off a face-off. Unfortunately, Toronto couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity, keeping their lead at just one.
They continued to push as the period progressed, but a Ryan Reaves tripping penalty killed their momentum and sent the Blues to their first power play, looking to tie the game up with a little under five minutes to go in the period. The penalty kill, which has been a problem for a good chunk of the season, almost had the penalty killed off, but with seconds left, Brandon Saad scored, tying the game at one, as the puck took a deflection off Liljegren.
Toronto entered the second intermission tied 1-1 and ahead in shots 20-13.

Third period:

With both teams entering the final period, the next goal was crucial. Fortunately for Toronto, Jordan Kyrou was sent to the penalty box just four seconds in for high-sticking Matthew Knies.
After going 0-for-1 on their first attempt, the top unit hopped over the boards for their second attempt and made no mistake this time. Mitch Marner lost the puck behind the Blues’ net, but Tyler Bertuzzi lifted a stick, and Marner collected the puck back. From behind the goal line, Marner fed Auston Matthews in the slot for his 49th of the season, retaking the lead just 45 seconds into the period.
After scoring the first goal this afternoon in the previous period and drawing a penalty, which resulted in his team scoring on the power play, Knies was sent to the box roughly six minutes into the third for hooking. It wasn’t a good recipe, given Toronto allowed St. Louis to score on their first power play attempt after they opened the scoring, but it was Toronto’s power kill that did the scoring with Knies in the box.
William Nylander forced the Blues into turning the puck over, and he was sprung on a 2-on-0 with Pontus Holmberg. Nylander looked off his fellow Swede and roofed his 29th of the season over Hofer’s shoulder to give his team the two-goal lead with a little over 12 minutes remaining in the game.
After limiting St. Louis to one goal on 15 shots last Tuesday, Toronto did the same today. After the Nylander goal, they had St. Louis stuck on one goal with under 20 shots on goal. However, down by two, the Blues were feeling aggressive and decided to pull their goalie with well over four minutes to go.
The top line jumped over the boards to defend the 6-on-5, and they did an excellent job keeping everything to the outside, not giving them anything to work with near the net. But after Bertuzzi’s line jumped over the boards and he missed the empty net to make it 4-1 Toronto, the Blues found the back of the net to cut Toronto’s lead in half with a little over a minute left.
Now it was a 3-2 game with a full minute left and the Blues on a 6-on-5. Fortunately, Bobby McMann iced the game with around 40 seconds remaining as he scored his eighth goal of the season into the empty net to secure the 4-2 win in the first game of the four-game road trip.

Who stood out:

It was a pretty bland first period for both teams, but once Matthew Knies scored early in the middle frame, Toronto started to take over the game.
The top line of Knies, Matthews, and Marner, in particular, stood out, for obvious reasons. They scored at five-on-five (Knies) and on the power play (Matthews) and were second on the team with an xGF of 0.45 at five-on-five, according to Moneypuck.com.
Ever since Morgan Rielly began serving his five-game suspension, the pairing of TJ Brodie and Timothy Liljegren has stood out in a big, positive way. Offensively, Brodie (two assists) and Liljegren (five assists) have combined for seven points in their last four games. And according to Moneypuck.com, that pairing led the way today with an xGF of 97.5, held a 20-10 shot attempt advantage, and a 14-1 shot advantage when they were both on the ice.
Yes, it’s a small sample size, but maybe Sheldon Keefe and his coaching staff should keep these two paired together even when Rielly returns. The only question is: who would play alongside Rielly? Maybe Brad Treliving should go out and acquire Chris Tanev.
He wasn’t tested much today, but Ilya Samsonov continues to look calm, cool, and collected between the pipes. He earned his seventh win since rejoining the Maple Leafs (7-2-0) and has posted a 2.10 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in those nine games.
 
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)
 
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Wednesday night when they visit Arizona to take on the Coyotes. Puck drop is scheduled for 10:00 pm ET/7:00 pm PT.

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