Matt Murray’s premiere was not just another hockey night.
The recently signed Toronto Maple Leafs (3-1) goalie played in his first preseason game and kept a clean sheet for two periods in the 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens (0-2) on Wednesday at the Scotiabank Arena.
Murray’s first game with the Leafs was emotional as both teams took the ice wearing Team Canada sweaters in honour of the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series.
The former Senator had planned to fully enjoy his first time on the rink as a Maple Leaf.
“I wanted to make the most out of it tonight, get my feet wet a little bit,” said the goalie. “It’s been a while since I played in a game like that.
“All in all it was a really fun night.”
Murray saved all 16 shots that came his way, including one at point-blank range in the second period.
Sheldon Keefe – who had to play forwards Alexander Kerfoot and Calle Järnkrok on defence during the game due to injuries – was pleased with both of his goalies’ performances.
“It’s early, they have only played 40 minutes, but they can only deal with what comes their way,” said the head coach about Murray and backup Erik Kallgren. “They have been excellent.”
The goalie’s performance was made even more impressive by the unusual presence of Järnkrok and Kerfoot in front of him.
“I don’t know if I ever seen it to be honest,” said Murray about the unique situation. “Pretty impressive on their part.”
The Leafs have been injury-riddled this preseason – especially on defence – coming into the game with injuries to Jake Muzzin (back), Timothy Lljegren (hernia) and losing Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) early in the victory.
The 17,519 crowd in attendance gave a standing ovation to members of the 1972 Team Canada that prevailed over the Soviet Union in the Summit Series, a group that included Paul Henderson, who scored the famous game winner in the final contest and was a Leaf at the time.
Nick Robertson opened the scoring with 13:07 left in the first period with a wrist shot over goalkeeper Samuel Montembeault’s left shoulder on an assist from Mark Giordano to make it 1-0 for the Leafs.
The home team was not able to capitalize on a couple of power-plays opportunities in the first, as Montembeault kept Toronto’s offence at bay, including a point-blank save on a shot by Pontus Holmberg.
Murray also made a pair of nice saves in the first, initially on a tip-in by Rem Pitlick, then on a Jordan Harris slap shot.
The Leafs outshot the Canadiens 10-8 in the opening period, but failed to capitalize on the power-play going 0-for-2 with an extra man in the ice.
Toronto’s goalie was back at it in the second, blocking a snap shot by 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovský, then saving a point-blank backhand by Pitlick.
The Canadiens also got a couple chances at the power-play in the second period, but they too failed to capitalize.
A holding penalty by Arber Xhekaj late in the second period gave the Leafs their third shot to go a man-up, and they finally took advantage with a snap shot by Denis Malgin after a great one-touch pass by Kerfoot to increase the lead to 2-0.
Emil Heineman was called for hooking late in the third period and Toronto again made good use of the numerical advantage as Nick Abruzzese scored on assists by William Nylander and Malgin to go up by 3-0.
The home team again outshot the visitors 10-8 in the second but lost the shooting battle 11-9 in the third.
A big difference in the game was the power play, as the Canadiens went 0-for-3 in contrast to a solid two-for-four for the Leafs.
The Maple Leafs have another preseason bout against the Senators on Friday at the CAA Arena in Belleville, Ont., while the Canadiens face the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday in Montreal.
Game Notes: Leafs were playing without captain John Tavares who suffered an upper-body injury and is going to be out for at least three weeks … A recap of the 1972 summit series was shown on the jumbotron at Scotiabank to raucous applause by the fans.