Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Multi-goal game from Matthews, 18-save shutout from Samsonov as Leafs beat Predators 4-0
By Joseph Zita2 months ago
After a quick stop in the nation’s capital to play the Senators on Thursday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs returned home for a quick stop to host the Nashville Predators for the second and final time this regular season, as they welcomed in some familiar faces. This time, Toronto was the one to come out victorious.
Toronto came out ready to play in the first period. They gave it to the Predators early, outshooting them by a decent margin, including a couple of glorious looks they couldn’t put in the back of the net. Kevin Lankinen, who started last night instead of Juuse Saros, made some great saves in tight to keep the game tied at zero.
Outside of some great saves from the goalies and both teams receiving a power play opportunity in the first period but not being able to score on it, it was a mediocre period. However, we were treated to a couple of monster hits from rookie Matthew Knies, including this one on Cody Glass in open ice.
The Maple Leafs and Predators would head into the first intermission tied at zero, with Toronto having the narrow edge in shots 9-7.
Heading into last night’s game, the Maple Leafs were 1-for-16 on the power play since returning from Sweden. In the first period, they went 0-for-1, and just 2:25 into the second period, they headed back to the man advantage as Alex Carrier was whistled for tripping. Unfortunately, Toronto did nothing with the power play, couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity, and it was the same story five minutes later when Luke Schenn went to the box for interference.
Outside of three pretty bland power plays, the Maple Leafs were generating chances five-on-five and looked like the better team up to this point in the hockey game. They were robbed of a couple of chances by Kevin Lankinen, and Wiliam Nylander even hit a post. But with roughly six minutes left in the second period, David Kampf hopped over the boards and scored on a gorgeous solo effort.
He collected the pass from Timmins, split the defenders, and roofed it in tight on Lankinen to give his club the 1-0 lead late in the period.
Up 1-0 and the home arena cheering loud and proud, Auston Matthews extended their lead three and a half minutes later, as he and William Nylander teamed up on a nice give-and-go for his 17th of the season.
With two consecutive goals to get the crowd into it, John Tavares was whistled for tripping Ryan McDonagh, and the Predators headed to their second power play. Nashville couldn’t score in the remaining 1:55, and the Maple Leafs entered the second intermission up 2-0, outshooting the Predators 23-13.
Up 2-0 heading into the third period, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in yet another close game. However, the difference this time was it was a two-goal game, not a one-goal game they seemed to play all the time over the past couple of weeks.
Although the score was only 2-0, and Toronto was 0-for-4 on the power play up to this point, they looked by far the better team and could’ve been up by more than just two goals. Kevin Lankinen made a couple of brilliant saves to deny Toronto of more insurance, but it wasn’t until the last five minutes of the third period when Toronto eventually put this game out of reach.
With just over four minutes to go in regulation, the Maple Leafs were back on the power play, and they finally found the back of the net for the second time since returning from Sweden. The play started with a defensive play from William Nylander in his zone to break up the Predators’ scoring chance. John Tavares scooped up the loose puck and handed it back to Nylander, who fed Auston Matthews streaking toward the net and sniped his 18th of the season and second of the night, five-hole on Lankinen.
With Matthews’ fourth goal in his last three games and his team up 3-0, there was a little more breathing room for this club, given how many close games they’ve played over the past handful of games. With roughly three and a half minutes left in the game, Simon Benoit went to the box for hooking, and the Maple Leafs were off to the penalty kill again.
The penalty kill unit continued to do what they’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks… keeping the puck out of the net. Not only did they kill off Nashville’s third power play of the night, but Noah Gregor scored a short-handed empty-netter for his fourth of the season to wrap this game up and give the Maple Leafs the 4-0 win before they head out on the road.
Who stood out:
Plenty of players stood out in last night’s shutout win over the Predators. Ilya Samsonov, who I mentioned in the pregame article yesterday, notched his first shutout of the season, saving all 18 shots the Predators threw at him. He wasn’t tested a bunch through the 60 minutes, but he made saves when he was called upon.
The fourth line of Gregor, Kampf and Reaves deserves some love after last night’s performance. The trio probably had their best game as a line, and two of them got rewarded with a goal, albeit Gregor scored short-handed. The line played 6:01 at five-on-five and had more shot attempts (7) than shot attempts against (2). They also led the team last night in an xGoals% of 90.8%, according to MoneyPuck.com. Kampf’s goal came with Gregor and Robertson on the ice, given it was a broken line change, with Reaves waiting to jump on the ice.
Matthews and Nylander also continued their little hot stretch last night. The former potted home two more goals to give him 18 on the season, and Nylander added two more assists to extend his point streak to four games. Matthews now has four goals and two assists in his last four games, while Nylander has one goal and four assists in his previous four games.
Also, shoutout to Jake McCabe. He laid a monster hit on rookie Luke Evangelista along the boards near the benches and got challenged to a fight by Kiefer Sherwood. As a team, the Maple Leafs registered 26 hits and now rank third in the NHL in hits (520) and first in hits per game (21.67), according to StatMuse.com.
I don’t think McCabe won the fight, but props for answering the bell.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game Monday night on Sportsnet when they head on the road to take on the New York Islanders. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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