Goaltending has been a focal point for both the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars, who meet on Thursday night riding winning streaks.
During the Maple Leafs’ current five-game road trip, Joseph Woll is making a strong case to potentially take over the No. 1 goaltending job.
Woll stopped 36 shots Tuesday night in a 4-1 victory over the host Washington Capitals. That followed an impressive outing in relief of struggling Ilya Samsonov, as Woll did not allow a goal in a 4-3 comeback win in overtime on Saturday against the host Tampa Bay Lightning.
“He was composed, under control and made some saves that require a great deal of athleticism,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said after Tuesday’s game. “He tracks the puck. He has the athleticism, strength and flexibility to get there. So, it was impressive.”
Toronto is 2-1-0 on the trip and has won four of six games this season.
Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger made 38 saves in a 4-1 victory over the host Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night to continue his strong play to open the season.
“He’s big every night for us,” Stars coach Peter DeBoer said of Oettinger. “He’s elite. He’s come back, he’s healthy, he’s making it look easy. He’s obviously our backbone.”
The Stars have opened the season on a five-game point streak with four wins.
With Dallas trailing 1-0 after the first period, DeBoer made some line adjustments for the second against Pittsburgh.
He moved Evgenii Dadonov to a line with Tyler Seguin and Matt Duchene, put Ty Dellandrea with Jamie Benn and Wyatt Johnston and moved Mason Marchment to a line with Radek Faksa and Craig Smith. The Stars responded.
“We gave some of those combinations three or four games and I think frustration was starting to set in,” DeBoer said. “We weren’t finishing. So that’s one of the tools you have is to juggle some things, and it seemed to work (Tuesday).”
Jason Robertson, who scored 46 goals last season, scored his first of the season on Tuesday and added an assist. Dadonov, Johnston and Thomas Harley also scored.
“(Tuesday) was definitely not a pretty game, but I think we did a really good job defensively and save for the last five minutes of the first period,” Duchene said. “We scored four goals, but I think there’s more for us there. We’re at a point now where we’re doing a lot of things right and we want to keep getting better every game.”
In Washington, Woll stopped a backhand effort by Capitals star Alex Ovechkin on a penalty shot in the second period.
“You think he’s probably going to shoot,” Woll said. “I was just trying as best I can to let myself make the read and not be guessing too much.”
Tuesday’s start was the second of the season for Woll and was scheduled even before his relief outing on Saturday.
“I think being able to play more games and play against different teams with different systems and different kinds of players gives you more of a sample size and gets you that experience,” Woll said.
Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly each had a goal and an assist for Toronto, while William Nylander and John Tavares also scored.
“We didn’t play a great game here (Tuesday),” Keefe said, “but we did enough good things to put ourselves in position to win the game.”