After two losses in a row, the Toronto Maple Leafs came back in the game last night to beat the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 5-2. The team needed to snap their losing streak and get back into the win column. And they did.
Zach Aston-Reese scored twice (the fourth time in his NHL career scoring twice), with the other goals coming from Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews. John Tavares and Calle Jarnkrok each registered two assists. Jarnkrok win a bunch of puck battles.
Once again Ilya Samsonov had an impressive performance by stopping 32 shots. He didn’t have to stand on his head, but he was solid.
With the win, Toronto picked up its 91st point and retained their lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for home-ice advantage in the Atlantic Division. They are now up on the Lightning by three points with a game in hand.
Takeaway One: Zach Aston-Reese Scores Two Goals
It isn’t that Zach Aston-Reese can’t score, it’s just that he chooses to focus on his defense and checking assignments instead. Last night, he seemed quite fired up to score. He got the team’s first goal of the game and then scored again on a 2-on-1 breakaway with Sam Lafferty doing the heavy lifting and Aston-Reese in perfect position to finish it off.
Those two players seem to know the meaning of teamwork and also have developed a quick chemistry together. Lafferty used his speed to create space and then made a beautiful pass to Aston-Reese for the finish. Aston-Reese entered the game with only one goal scored in his last 23 games. But he was on his game tonight.
Once again, the team’s depth players played with confidence and demonstrated the ability to carry the game. It’s the kind performance the team needs to help them moving forward.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Schenn & Ovchinnikov
Takeaway Two: There’s Something Special about Luke Schenn
Luke Schenn made his second debut on home ice with the Maple Leafs. He had been with the team early in his career and he’s excited to be back. There’s something really quite interesting about how the fans and the city seems to have taken to him.
Schenn clearly has a connection with the fans here. He received a loud ovation he even heard “Luuuuuke” chants from the crowd. I thought it was actually quite special when a player is excited to return to a team after being away for a while. Everyone also seems to be welcoming Schenn back and he’s made himself at home (in a good way) quickly.
It will be interesting to see how he contributes to the team moving forward and how the fans continue to support him. So far, it’s hard to recall a player who’s come to the team in the middle of the season with such a positive vibe. He seems like a genuine kind of guy!
Related: Maple Leafs’ Question: How Much Should Matt Murray Be Playing?
Takeaway Three: Seemed Like Total Team Defense
I was going to write something about Ilya Samsonov here, but the fact is that – while he had a solid game – it was total team defense that carried the day for the Maple Leafs.
As Morgan Rielly put it: “Playoff-type of game feel in terms of both teams being conscious not to allow too much offense.” The games seem to be getting that way more and more. Maple Leafs fans will recall that their team took a 2-1 shootout loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. The game had a similar feeling.
It was a good win for the Maple Leafs.
Related: OLD PROF’S BONUS TRIVIA: DO YOU KNOW YOUR MAPLE LEAFS’ GOALIES?
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March 18, 2023 at 2:32 am
Marner continues to play with elite vision, Rielly seems to be getting into the groove, team started on time and they played a game where they protected Samsonov. Good times all around…except, things could have went the other way pretty quickly considering Keefe and his lineup choice 7/11.
March 18, 2023 at 5:40 am
Samsonov was not solidd, he let in the first goal whoch often sets the toneor losing the game. He was fine after that but you can’t declare that a goalie was good or especially solid when they let in a goal.
March 18, 2023 at 5:50 am
Luke Schenn was booed his first year or more but got better and became a favourite in his first showing years ago. Many including myself were sad to see him go. We were right and glad to have him back! The differences between him and say Gardiner or Reilly is he learned to almost never screw up in his own end whereas they do lots and never learn and he has the grit/toughness/heart to be effective instead of half useless in his own zone.
March 18, 2023 at 6:08 am
It always gets more challenging playoff style in the last couple of months of the regular season. The names I saw and heard most were ZAR, Lafferty, McCabe, Schenn, Jarnkrok, Giordano, Gustafsson. Sure, the so called core 5 made a guest star appearance here or there but it was those names who won the game. Good the Leafs are ruling by committee instead of Dubas these days! Obviously, he never would have acquired most of those players.
March 18, 2023 at 7:42 am
Good game and good summary OP. I was really impressed with Eric Gustafsson last night. He’s smart, has really good vision and may turn out to be a quiet work of genius by Kyle Dubas. Reilly was great and I also liked Sam Lafferty’s game yesterday. William Nylander had the kind of night that dogged him in the past, looking apprehensive and standing still but I think the Hurricanes deserve some credit there. They play the tightest game of any team in the NHL. Now on to Ottawa. I’d love to see Wayne Train dress tonight and join the roster a little bit more down the stretch but it’ll be tough to get him in with the Leafs’s finally having the makings of a fourth line that can be impactful. Enjoy the weekend everyone!
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