Give the Toronto Maple Leafs credit for not quitting. After falling behind, they showed their resilience and came back to tie the score at 4-4 in regulation against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. Then they left it to William Nylander to win the game in overtime.
Goaltender Matt Murray did not have a strong performance in the first period, giving up four goals on eight shots. He was replaced by Ilya Samsonov, whose performance was key to the team’s comeback victory.
Dryden Hunt and Alex Kerfoot also scored for the Maple Leafs. After losing their previous two games, the team needed a bounce-back win, and it was a wild game. In this post, I’ll look at some of the key takeaways from last night’s game.
Takeaway One: Ilya Samsonov Was Perfect in Net
Samsonov’s relief appearance was crucial in helping the Maple Leafs tie the game. He needed to be perfect in the crease, and he was. With the win, he now has a record of 13-4-1 with a goals-against average of 2.24 and a save percentage of .916. For all his hiccups recently, these are solid numbers.
Samsonov’s play has been inconsistent over the last six games, but he came up big last night. He replaced Murray early in the second period and stopped all 11 shots he faced.
Takeaway Two: William Nylander Just Keeps Being William Nylander
It’s simple. Like Samsonov, without Nylander’s performance, there would have been no Maple Leafs’ comeback victory. He scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals. He now leads the team with 24 goals, and his 50 points are second to Mitch Marner (who has 54 points). Both players have played 45 games.
Nylander was outstanding and seemed determined to score. Interestingly, Nylander was given and missed a penalty shot in the third period, but he didn’t seem to let that discourage him. He scored the game-tying goal five minutes later.
Nylander showed even more determination when he broke in alone on three Panthers defenders, carried the puck through the crease, and deposited it past the goalie. His burst of speed was reminiscent of another overtime winner about three weeks ago when he stole the puck and broke in alone down the same sideboards. However, against the St. Louis Blues, he went backhand to score.
This season, Nylander has found something extra in his game. He’s beginning to show more character and resilience, and, as a result, his game is blossoming. Last night was just one example. His ability to stay engaged in the game and help his team win has become a valuable attribute. He’s becoming an elite player and separating himself from the pack.
Takeaway Three: Matt Murray’s Struggles Continue
Murray had a rough start, and it was a similar performance to his previous game, a 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins last Saturday when he allowed four goals on 34 shots.
It was Murray’s second game in a row of allowing four goals. It was also the fourth time in his last seven games that he’s been scored upon four times. His record didn’t change, 11-5-2, but after his poor performance, he now has a goals-against average of 2.73 and a .911 save percentage.
Takeaway Four: Mitch Marner Keeps His String Alive at 19
Marner extended his home point streak to a club-record 19 games. In another solid game, he notched two assists (one on the power play) against the Panthers. He’s registered at least one assist in 11 of the last 13 games and has 17 points in that span (four goals and 13 assists), including three goals and six assists on the power play.
Entering this season, Marner had not scored a power-play goal since Feb. 2020; however, he consistently sets up goals with two 60-assist seasons. His career-high was 68 in 2018-19. However, with 38 assists in 45 games this season, he’s on pace to top that mark.
What Now for the Maple Leafs?
With Murray struggling, what will the coaching staff do? The team showed the wherewithal to find a way to win, but that kind of comeback isn’t sustainable every night.
Will Keefe consider utilizing a strict time-sharing approach between the two goalies, and how can he ensure the team receives consistent performances from both of them? Maybe one goalie will emerge as the number one if he performs consistently well. Yes, hockey is a team sport, and how well a goalie plays is one aspect of the team’s overall success, but life was so much easier when both were on top of their game.