Less than a week of the 2021-22 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had the misfortune of running into hot goaltending that has cost them points even though they were arguably the better of the two teams on those nights.
Senators goalie Anton Forsberg made 46 saves in a 3-2 Ottawa victory last Thursday, and on Monday the Leafs were stymied by New York netminder Igor Shesterkin, who stopped 40 shots in a 2-1 Rangers overtime win at Scotiabank Arena.
Michael Bunting scored early in the second period to tie the game after Mika Zibanejad opened the scoring in the first, but the story of the night was Shesterkin, who kept the game tied into an exciting extra frame and until Artemi Panarin scored the winner at 3:48 to give the Rangers the win.
Jack Campbell was also excellent in his third start, making 22 saves on the night. The game marked the return of Leafs center Auston Matthews, who played nearly 23 minutes, registered a team-leading 16 shot attempts, eight shots-on-goal, won 13 of 15 faceoffs and nearly won the game in overtime on a mad scramble.
“He’s amazing. He was working super hard to get back. He’s always working hard and it shows out there.”Campbell said of Matthews after the game. “First game back and he’s a force to be reckoned with and his whole line was buzzing out there. They played so well together and it’s just fun to watch.”
The Leafs practiced at the Ford Performance Centre on Tuesday and winger Ondrej Kase was absent. Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated that the forward blocked a shot on Monday and was being assessed by the club’s medical staff. Toronto has two days off until back-to-back games on Friday against the San Jose Sharks and Saturday in Pittsburgh.
The 2021 season has unfortunately begun the same way for winger Nick Robertson as it did in 2020, with an injury that will keep the 20-year-old out long term. Last season, the youngster was injured in his first NHL regular season game against Ottawa and resulted in him playing only six games for the Leafs.
After posting a pair of assists in the Toronto Marlies season opening win over Manitoba on Saturday, Robertson suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula against the Moose on Sunday. The winger will not require surgery, but is expected to be out a minimum of 10 weeks, which means he likely will not return to the Toronto lineup until after New Year’s.
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