Matt Murray made 18 saves, allowing one goal in the first period before stopping 15 straight pucks, as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-1 on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena.
The back-to-back Stanley Cup champion finished the pre-season with only two goals against on 66 shots. This was the Leafs’ (5-2-0 in pre-season) final tune up before traveling to Montreal, and the goalkeeper believes his squad is prepared for the regular season.
“I liked a lot of things,” the goaltender said afterwards. “I thought it was an overall really solid team effort. Special teams were a huge difference, an unbelievable job on both sides of that.”
Coach Sheldon Keefe is confident in his team’s goaltending situation after last year’s starter, Jack Campbell, was signed by the Edmonton Oilers in free agency.
“I really believe in both guys,” said Keefe. “I came into this camp with great optimism and just the way they have approached their offseason and training camp, gives me every reason for confidence.”
On the opposite side of the ice, Jussi Olkinuora stopped 13 of 15 shots before Victor Brattstrom took over near the halfway point. Brattstrom did not fare any better, allowing three goals on 11 shots.
The Leafs’ top players were on full display Saturday night. Auston Matthews scored his first two goals of the pre-season, William Nylander found the back of the net twice, and Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner led the team in points with three assists apiece.
Pius Suter was the lone goal scorer for the Red Wings (3-4-0 in preseason).
Toronto led the shots on net early six to three, but Detroit was the first to capitalize with 8:23 remaining in the first. After Jonatan Berggren rung the puck off the post, the Red Wings regained possession and Suter sniped one over the right shoulder of Murray.
Nylander quickly responded, netting his third of the pre-season with 4:36 left to play in the first. He received a pass from Mark Giordano at the red line and skated to the hashmarks to burry a wrist shot past Olkinuora.
Keefe made the decision to use Nylander as the second line centre tonight in place of the injured captain John Tavares.
“I’m comfortable with Willy playing centre anytime,” the head coach said. “Regardless of John’s situation I’ve used Willy at centre at different times, and I don’t have any hesitation to do that.”
The Leafs kept the score intact after Michael Bunting was given four penalty minutes for high sticking and removing the helmet of Pontus Andreasson. Their penalty killing unit was a perfect five for five on the night.
Denis Malgin scored the only goal of the second period making it 2-1 and giving Toronto their first lead of the night. He carried the puck from his teams’ blue line to net his fourth of the preseason.
The Leafs right winger made a great move to get past Wyatt Newpower, putting him on a short breakaway before burying the puck glove side.
You know you are onto something when you can impress the man who scored 60 goals last season.
“Crispy, that was nice,” said Matthews. “He has looked unbelievable at camp. The confidence, he just looks strong out there. It’s been a lot of fun to watch him.”
Malgin is making a strong case to be included on Toronto’s roster to begin the season. He is now tied for second in both goals (4) and points (8) across the NHL, sharing the point total with fellow teammate Nick Robertson.
“He had a good camp,” said Keefe. “I think if you’re him coming in and you make a checklist of the things you want to accomplish, he did a pretty good job of that.”
Matthews scored his first goal of the preseason 2:12 into the third making it a 3-1 game. This was the first power play goal of the night for either side.
William Nylander followed with a power play goal of his own, his second of the night, tying Malgin’s preseason goal total. Toronto extended their lead to 4-1 with 12:58 remaining.
The Leafs scored their third consecutive power play goal with 6:11 remaining, putting this game well out of reach. This was Matthews second goal of the night, aided by the same duo of Marner and Reilly.
NOTES: Both Toronto and Detroit will open their seasons against the Montreal Canadians … Leafs will play in Montreal on Wednesday, while Detroit will play at home on Friday … Leafs Captain John Tavares was held out of play with an oblique injury and is questionable to begin the season … Jake Muzzin and Pierre Engvall each played their first game of the pre-season …Toronto outshot Detroit 26-19 and 17 of their shots were blocked as they dominated the time on attack.