Maple Leafs have reason to worry about Matt Murray

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron deflects a pass past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray during the first period of their game in Boston on Jan. 14.Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Perhaps it is unfair to sound an alarm over Matt Murray’s recent play in the Maple Leafs’ net. Perhaps not.

“Clang, clang, clang, clang!”

On Tuesday, the veteran goaltender got yanked after giving up four goals on just eight shots. If one includes the four he allowed in a loss to Boston on Saturday that’s eight pucks that have eluded him from the past 42.

To go back a bit farther, he is 3-3 in his past seven starts and in that time has given up four goals three times and five once.

Solid early play has overshadowed the more recent deficiency, but he has begun to look more like the guy who struggled in two previous seasons in Ottawa than the one who won Stanley Cups twice in Pittsburgh.

Toronto rallied from a 4-2 disadvantage to edge Florida 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday. Ilya Samsonov came off the bench to save 11 shots – and the day – and will almost certainly get the nod against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday at Scotiabank Arena.

“He came in and calmed our team down and made some massive saves,” Mitch Marner said after the triumph over the Panthers. “It was great to see him go in there and kind of take over the game for us.”

Tuesday’s encounter was a chaotic, ornery and penalty-ridden affair. Florida took nine, which coach Paul Maurice called an “coordinate share.”

“I don’t know what the hell those guys were doing,” Maurice said in a slag at the officials that may set him back slightly in the pocket. “It wasn’t Florida Panther-friendly.” At one point in the second period, Sam Bennett of the Panthers was cited for interference and sent to the penalty box, only to have the call reversed and the Maple Leafs’ Timothy Liljegren handed it two minutes instead, also for interference.

On the bench, Sheldon Keefe, Toronto’s coach, was baffled and infuriated and yelled a word that would be highly inappropriate in most places other than an NHL arena or a Sopranos dinner.

Keefe later said the explanation he was given at the time was that the infraction, which involved kicking Samsonov’s dropped goal stick, was wrongly attributed to Bennett and then corrected.

Toronto went only 2 for 7 on the power play but got so many chances that a couple were eventually bound to go in. Auston Matthews netted one with a man advantage with three seconds left in the second period to cut the Panthers’ lead to 4-3. It energized his teammates who tied it on a goal by William Nylander in the third and then won it in extra time on another by Nylander.

“It was a heck of a job to battle back,” Matthews said. “There are a lot of things we could have done better but at the end of the day we got to go home happy.”

For his part, Matthews was charged with tripping Nick Cousins ​​after the latter cross-checked him three times in a matter of seconds.

Both went to the box.

“A strange night,” Marner said.

The Maple Leafs are 27-11-7 – which is quite good – but came close to losing their third game in a row to an Atlantic Division opponent. With Boston far ahead in the standings and Tampa Bay close behind, a crisis was averted for now.

Overall, Murray’s numbers are fine – 11-5-2 with a .911 save percentage. The latter has come down the more he has played, which is true of all but a few goals.

So maybe it is a little nitpicky but his recent backslide has been noticed.

Keefe attributed most of Murray’s troubles on Tuesday to the odd circumstances of the game – too many power plays and because of that, little flow and rhythm in play. He also lifted him in favor of Samsonov, who is now 13-4-1 and has saved nearly 92 per cent of the shots he has faced.

“You can’t give up four goals on eight shots no matter how you shake it,” Keefe said.

Matthews credited Samsonov for the victory but also said he believed Toronto played better in front of him than it did in front of Murray.

For Samsonov it was another night at the office.

“Both goals need to get ready for everything,” he said. “Sometimes injuries happen, sometimes you have a little bad luck.

“Over 82 games, sometimes there will be bad ones.”

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