Perhaps it’s unfair to sound an alarm about Matt Murray’s recent play into the Maple Leafs’ net. Maybe not.
“Clang, clang, clang, clang!”
On Tuesday, the veteran goalkeeper was recalled after conceding four goals on just eight shots. If you include the four he allowed in Saturday’s loss to Boston, that’s eight drives he’s missed out of his last 42.
To go back a bit further, he is 3-3 in his last seven starts and in that time has conceded four goals three times and five once.
The strong early game has eclipsed the most recent shortcoming, but he’s starting to look more like the guy who struggled in two previous seasons in Ottawa than the guy who won the Stanley Cup twice in Pittsburgh.
Toronto rallied from a 4-2 deficit to beat Florida 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday. Ilya Samsonov came off the bench to save 11 shots, and the day, and he will almost certainly get the nod against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday at Scotiabank Arena.
“He came in and calmed our team down and made some massive saves,” Mitch Marner said after the win over the Panthers. “It was great to see him go in there and take over the game for us.”
Tuesday’s game was chaotic, moody and riddled with penalties. Florida took nine, which coach Paul Maurice called an “inordinate portion.”
“I don’t know what the hell those guys were doing,” Maurice said in a scum to officials that may set him back a bit in the pocket. “He was not friendly to the Florida Panthers.” At one point in the second period, the Panthers’ Sam Bennett was cited for interference and sent to the penalty box, only to have the call reversed, and the Maple Leafs’ Timothy Liljegren was instead given two minutes, also for interference.
On the bench, Sheldon Keefe, the Toronto coach, was bewildered and enraged and yelled a word that would be highly inappropriate in most places other than an NHL stadium or a soprano Dinner.
Keefe later said that the explanation he was given at the time was that the offence, which involved kicking Samsonov’s dropped goal stick, was wrongly attributed to Bennett and later corrected.
Toronto went just 2-for-7 on the power play, but had so many chances that a couple of them eventually went on. Auston Matthews scored one from a one-man lead with three seconds remaining in the second period to cut the Panthers’ lead to 4-3. He energized his teammates who tied it on a William Nylander goal in the third and then won it in extra time with another from Nylander.
“It was a great job fighting,” Matthews said. “There are many things we could have done better, but at the end of the day we have to go home happy.”
For his part, Matthews was accused of tripping Nick Cousins after the latter checked him out three times in a matter of seconds.
They both went to the box.
“A strange night,” Marner said.
The Maple Leafs are 27-11-7, which is pretty good, but they came close to losing their third straight game to an Atlantic Division opponent. With Boston well ahead in the standings and Tampa Bay close behind, a crisis was averted for now.
Overall, Murray’s numbers are fine: 11-5-2 with a .911 save percentage. The latter has gone down the more he has played, which is true of all but a few goalkeepers.
So maybe he’s a bit picky, but his recent pullback has been remarkable.
Keefe blamed most of Murray’s problems Tuesday on the strange circumstances of the game: too many power plays and therefore not enough fluidity and pace in the game. He also raised it for Samsonov, who is now 13-4-1 and has saved nearly 92 percent of the shots he’s faced.
“You can’t allow four goals on eight shots no matter how you shake it,” Keefe said.
Matthews credited Samsonov for the win, but also said he believed Toronto played better against him than against Murray.
For Samsonov it was another night at the office.
“Both goalkeepers need to prepare for everything,” he said. “Sometimes injuries happen, sometimes you have a bit of bad luck.
“More than 82 games, sometimes there will be bad games.”
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