Despite winning their season opener in a shootout, the Toronto Maple Leafs know they need to improve Saturday night against the visiting Minnesota Wild.
The Maple Leafs needed two late goals in the third period from Auston Matthews before defeating the visiting Montreal Canadiens 6-5 Wednesday in a shootout. The tying goal gave Matthews a hat trick.
Toronto also killed a penalty in overtime.
“I want to forget about this game and just keep moving forward,” said Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who made 19 saves. “Not a fun game for the goalies, especially for Toronto goalies.”
“I mean, tough game for him,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Not a lot of action. Big gaps between shots, especially in the second and third periods. He had a lot of really dangerous shots and dangerous looks. You get two points, you move on from it. He stood his ground when we were short-handed in overtime and (was) perfect in the shootout. So let’s build upon that.”
Trailing 5-3, the Leafs removed Samsonov for an extra attacker with more than four minutes left in the third period.
“I had a lot of confidence in our 6-on-5,” Keefe said. “That’s an area where (assistant coach) Guy Boucher has done a terrific job of preparing the guys. We spent probably more time on our 6-on-5 through preseason than we ever have in practices, and that’s a credit to him for prioritizing that. And I liked it in preseason when we’ve had to use it as well.”
Overall, Toronto had an uneven performance.
The Wild are coming off a cleaner season opener, a 2-0 victory over the Florida Panthers at Saint Paul, Minn., Thursday night.
Brock Faber scored his first NHL goal and goaltender Filip Gustavsson stopped all 41 shots for the Wild.
The Wild, playing without defenseman and captain Jared Spurgeon (upper body injury), blocked 26 shots.
“It’s not going to be like that every night, that’s for sure,” Gustavsson said. “It’s on the limit a few times. It’s very close to (being) that the puck goes by me. But sometimes you’re lucky, and you create your own luck.”
“It gives you a lot of confidence as a defenseman when you see your goalie playing the way he was,” Faber said. “It makes our job very easy. Obviously, we hope to support him a little more.” Joel Eriksson Ek had a goal and an assist for Minnesota.
“They’re a hard team to play against,” Wild coach Dean Evason said of the Panthers. “They play hard, they play fast. They’ve got really good sticks. Fortunately, our defensive zone was good. Our penalty kill was good. Our goaltender was great.”
Wild left winger Marcus Johansson (upper-body injury) left after playing 12:03 on Thursday. He cleared all the tests but it’s not known if he will play against Toronto.