Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Samsonov posts 32-save shutout, Matthews scores overtime winner as Maple Leafs beat Jets 1-0
By Joseph Zita26 days ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs had an up-and-down four-game road trip, which finished with a solid 3-1 win over the Seattle Kraken. But now that they’re back in Toronto, they have another difficult task at hand with two meetings against the Winnipeg Jets, with the first one coming last night at home.
Part one of the renewed rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets this season got underway last night, but the game was missing a handful of key players from the previous four meetings. Mark Scheifele, Logan Stanley, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, and Jason Spezza are all either out with injury, not on the team anymore, or retired. However, Toronto had more important things to do in this game than start running around looking to cause chaos. They needed to build on their previous win against the Kraken and find the consistency in their game that has lacked this season.
Well.. it wasn’t a pretty start for the Maple Leafs in front of their home crowd. Winnipeg is arguably the best team in the league this season, and they showed why in this period. That, mixed with Toronto playing poorly, is not a good mix. The Jets were hard on the forecheck, which forced the Maple Leafs into turnovers. And after coming off an impressive win last time out, despite only facing 17 shots, Ilya Samsonov was by far Toronto’s MVP that period. The home team had some chances in the Jets’ zone, but they did a great job keeping Toronto to the outside as much as possible. When the Maple Leafs did get close to the net, Laurent Brossoit was there to deny them any goals.
Toronto entered the first intermission tied with Winnipeg, 0-0, and heavily outshot 16-4. It was not an ideal period for Toronto after returning home from a lengthy road trip.
The Leafs were awarded two early power plays within the first five minutes of the middle frame, but struggles on the man advantage continued, and a lack of effort from three individuals, in particular, didn’t go over well with Sheldon Keefe, which resulted in a benching for part of the period.
Matthews, Marner, and Nylander decided to go for a change instead of backcheck, giving the Jets a free 2-on-0 against Ilya Samsonov. Luckily, Samsonov somehow kept the puck out, making not one, not two, but three saves, keeping the score tied at zero.
Scotiabank Arena jumped out of their seats to give their goalie a standing ovation while chanting his name after making a flurry of saves for his team in a game where they hadn’t looked their best. Toronto went 0-for-2 on the power play but slowly started to generate more at five-on-five, something they had trouble doing in the first period. Unfortunately, the Jets’ stellar defensive structure didn’t give up much, and Brossoit continued to do his job, something he and Hellebuyck have been doing all season long.
The Maple Leafs went back on the power play with roughly six minutes to go, but it was the same story – struggling to enter the zone, set up, and generate scoring chances on the net. Toronto entered the second intermission still tied 0-0 with Winnipeg and continued to get outshot 21-15 despite a better effort in the second period.
After how their first period went, it was kind of a miracle Toronto entered the final period of regulation tied with the Winnipeg Jets. However, an area of concern was they hadn’t scored yet, and their streak of scoring at least one goal in a game was on the line. Entering last night, they held the NHL’s active streak of 190 consecutive games without being shut out.
Fortunately, Toronto came out for the third period looking like a different team. After looking better in the second period, compared to the first, they built on that middle frame and tested the Jets early but couldn’t solve Brossoit, who went toe-to-toe against Samsonov, making some unbelievable saves.
As the period aged and the scoreboard remained 0-0, we were getting into next goal wins territory, and it got tense in Scotiabank Arena because the fans knew whoever opened the scoring would probably win the game. Well, both teams continued to trade scoring chances. And after Toronto received their fifth power play – not scoring on it – the Jets got their first two of the period toward the end of regulation, which had disaster written all over it for Toronto.
The penalty kill did a good job keeping the puck out, and both teams headed to overtime, looking to score the game’s only goal.
It wasn’t ideal entering the overtime period short-handed, but Toronto was in that situation after Calle Jarnkrok took a tripping penalty with 35 seconds left in regulation. Given how poorly the Maple Leafs have looked in overtime this season, and they were on the penalty kill, this had all the makings for a quick goal from the Jets to win it. However, Ilya Samsonov came up with a couple of big stops for his team while killing the penalty off, and Calle Jarnkrok re-entered the play, thanks to his teammates.
Toronto didn’t start possessing the puck until midway through the overtime, and even then, they didn’t generate a lot on the net. But that was until a solid shift from Nick Robertson, who looked great last night, won back the puck from a Jets player, fed it to Morgan Rielly, who threw it toward the net, and the league leader in goals redirected his 39th of the season past Brossoit to win the game 1-0.
Who stood out:
Like my postgame after their win against Seattle: Ilya Samsonov. What a performance from the 26-year-old last night. Wow. It’s no secret that he was not playing up to his standards or the team’s early on in the season. He lost the starter role, lost his confidence, got put on waivers, went unclaimed, was sent down to the Marlies, where he spent roughly a week and a half and returned to the NHL.
Since his return, he has started three games and has been close to lights out. He holds a record of 2-1-0, with a 1.31 goals-against average and .944 save percentage to go along with a shutout against the Red Wings, Kraken, and Jets. Impressive.
It wasn’t a pretty game for some Maple Leafs, especially in the first period. But as the game went on, they slowly started to get better. One player, in particular, who looked good from the start was Nick Robertson, and he ended the game by setting up the play that led to the overtime winner. After scoring against the Kraken and picking up an assist last night, It’s safe to say the 22-year-old has earned another look Saturday night, even if Tyler Bertuzzi returns to the lineup.
Clearly, Sheldon Keefe thought Robertson looked good as well because he played a career-high 17:08 last night, which was fifth among forwards on the team.
I didn’t think he was as dominant last night as in other games, but when you score the overtime winner, it’s hard to ignore. Auston Matthews found the back of the net for the 39th time this season last night and needs just one goal to reach the 40-goal mark before the all-star break.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Saturday night when they close out their home-and-home in Winnipeg against the Jets. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
Recent articles from Joseph Zita