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The Toronto Maple Leafs overcame a sluggish start against the Ottawa Senators and rallied with a pair of goals in the second and third period in a 4-3 victory at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday, but the sole reason they survived the home squad’s early onslaught was goalie Joseph Woll, who stopped 29 of 30 Ottawa shots and made many spectacular saves, including two remarkable glove stops on Sens forward Vladimir Tarasenko.
Unfortunately for the Leafs, just as it appeared that the 25-year-old was establishing himself as their #1 goalie, Woll suffered a lower-body injury midway through the third period and had to be helped from the ice by teammates, unable to put any weight on his left leg.
“It is unfortunate,” Head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “He has been playing so well. He has been building such good momentum in his season and his career. It is a setback here now. He is going to miss time for sure. We will determine the extent of it once we get home. He is a big reason why we got two points tonight. Credit to the guys once again. It is another thing you could get a little rattled and shaken by. The guys just kept playing and found a way. (MartinJones) came in and did a really good job under tough circumstances.”
Friday is an off day for the Leafs, with them playing Nashville at home on Saturday, so a more detailed prognosis will likely be made available after their morning skate on Saturday.
Mitch Marner, David Kampf, Calle Jarnkrok and William Nylander scored for Toronto in the victory that moved the Leafs to 13-6-4 on the season and holding precariously onto one of the two Eastern Conference wildcard spots.
The injury is a potential game-changer for the Leafs, with Ilya Samsonov struggling nearly the whole season. Jones relieved the injured Woll midway through the third period and made nine saves to preserve the Toronto victory, but if the injury to Woll is long-term, the Leafs will need Samsonov to return to 2022-23 form to have any chance of success.
Another area of concern continues to be the thinness of the Leafs blueline. William Lagesson was a late scratch due to illness, and Toronto was forced to insert Maxime Lajoie into the lineup against his former club. Keefe leaned heavily on Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe, and TJ Brodie (all over 20 minutes) and more than usual on Simon Benoit and Conor Timmins (over 18 minutes).
With little options internally until Timothy Liljegren and Mark Giordano return, it will be a challenge for the Leafs to get through the rest of December with a short-handed defense corps and big questions in goal.