Because the Toronto Maple Leafs just came off an embarrasing 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, they should have come into their very next game with some fire in their bellies. But the didn’t, and the New York Islanders took the lead into the second period.
Somebody must have said something during the intermission, because a different Maple Leafs team came out of the locker room. The Blue and White scored four times in the second period, and that really was the game. The end result was a 5-2 Maple Leafs win over the Islanders.
In the game, William Nylander scored two goals and adding two assists. His teammates John Tavares, Calle Jarnkrok, Auston Matthews also contributed to the win by each scoring a goal and adding an assist. Justin Holl, who made amazing stretch passes, added two assists. Ilya Samsonov played another strong game and made 31 saves for the Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs are currently on a run that moved their record to 3-0-1 over their past four games. They’ve also gone 6-2-1 in their last nine games.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ takeaways, I’ll spend some time reviewing what I believe are the three key takeaways from last night’s game.
Takeaway One: Nylander Has an Amazing Game
William Nylander had an exceptionally great game (it was worth using two positive modifiers), scoring two goals and adding two assists. It was his second four-point game of the season. Nylander’s two goals pushed him to 26 goals on the season. It was the third time in his NHL career that he’s reached the 25-goal milestone. He’s also now just one point shy of reaching 400 points for his career.
The Maple Leafs comeback started when, five minutes into the second period, Nylander scored his first goal of the game on a wrist shot. After the Islanders answered to once again take the lead, the Maple Leafs responded.
While the team was on a power play, they caught the Islanders taking too long on a line change. Nylander quickly took advantage. He fed the puck to Tavares, who broke in alone to backhand his 21st goal of the season. That goal tied the game at 2-2.
The Maple Leafs almost immediately took the lead (1:40 minutes later) when Nylander (again) flipped a beautiful pass to send Jarnkrok in alone to score his 11th goal. [BTW, many Maple Leafs’ fans thought Jarnkrok would never score much with the Maple Leafs. He’s proven himself to be a solid addition to the team.]
Again, it was Nylander, who extended his team’s lead to 4-2 when he stole the puck from Scott Mayfield in the offensive zone. And, after faking a cross-ice pass, fired the puck into the net for his second goal of the night. The icing on the cake was Auston Matthew’s breakaway goal (his 25th) midway through the third on a great stretch pass from Holl.
Takeaway Two: Ilya Samsonov Sharp Again for Maple Leafs
Ilya Samsonov made his third consecutive start and fourth straight appearance. After yet another strong performance, he ended the game with a 15-4-2 record, a goals-against-average of 2.21, and a .920 save percentage.
Samsonov was sharp throughout the game and made a number of key saves. He’s been part of the Maple Leafs’ goalie tandem with Matt Murray. It’s been working well. Murray has a solid-enough 11-5-2 record, with a goals-against-average of 2.73, and a .911 save percentage. However, Samsonov seems to be emerging as the goalie of choice. And, who’s to argue. He’s playing well.
Takeaway Three: Who Said What?
It’s funny that the Maple Leafs would come out of the opening faceoff with so little energy. However, during the first intermission, Maple Leafs’ coach Sheldon Keefe made some adjustments to his top-six forward lines. He reunited Tavares and Nylander and partnered Mitch Marner with Matthews.
It’s great to have such top-six options. The intermission tweaks worked, and the Maple Leafs simply went off on the Islanders and carried the game the rest of the way to the final horn. They had the Islanders on their heels throughout the remainder of the game – from the start of the second period onward.
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