Maple Leafs get physical, Mitch Marner extends streak, in shutout of Kings
The Maple Leafs don’t have many blowout wins where their physical play draws more attention than their refined scoring.
But those elements were just as notable in Thursday’s 5-0 shutout against the Los Angeles Kings.
The bad news is that Toronto remains hot, Mitch Marner’s straight game point streak is 21 and has won 10 since a regular Remembrance Day loss to Pittsburgh and added three more points in overtime to keep the division-leading Boston Bruins in sight to keep.
Ilya Samsonov became part of the first consecutive team shutouts since February 2021, when Jack Campbell and Michael Hutchinson blanked the Oilers during Canada’s COVID-19 cohort.
Samsonov’s first Leafs shutout had to endure a five-minute major against the normally docile Pierre Engvall, who punched Sean Durzi in the neck at the end of a lively exchange in the third period. Although Engvall was knocked out of the tournament for an attempted injury, the unfortunate Durzi, a former Mississauga Leafs player who had an estimated 200 spectators at the Scotiabank Arena to watch his first game here, was the target of booing for the rest of the night .
Sheldon Keefe’s own winning streak of goal challenges continued when his video assistants spotted an offside position to nullify a Kings goal on the big power play.
A three-goal breakout in 66 seconds of the middle section broke up the game.
But Nick Robertson’s offer for a full-time job may have hit another wall with a long-term injury. He left the game early with his arm dangling after Matt Roy ran him into the corner, a high hit that led to an interference call.
Again, that and another roughhouse play by Adrian Kempe was not converted for a stage by Toronto despite their 13-3 lead in shots. The Kings had a couple of slot drives that were denied by Samsonov as they knocked out their first power play with Mark Giordano to hold the first third 0-0.
While the Leafs limited their response to Roy to verbal scolding, Zach Aston-Reese helped set the building on fire when he kicked the puck into Gabriel Vilardi at the LA forward’s feet. That set Blake Lizotte up for a fight and the ensuing trifle resulted in Engvall’s goal for the second unit.
David Kampf then went on for a 2-on-1, using Alex Kerfoot as bait before snapping it past Jonathan Quick. A decent deke from William Nylander followed on a breakaway.
Then there was the question of when Marner would renew his streak. At the end of a high-pressure shift he helped dictate, Marner picked up a puck off the boards in his wheelhouse to drive his 11th. goal blocker up. Auston Matthews finished the classification with his 14th place.
Matt Murray had the shutout Tuesday in Dallas to take his save percentage to .932, but with a day’s travel home, Keefe had planned that a rested Samsonov could build on his own excellent .924 average.
While Marner was a focus for the Kings, it was Matthews who had the early jump and set up Nylander and Michael Bunting for good chances before the Robertson injury messed up the lines.
The Leafs play Nazem Kadri and Calgary here on Saturday.
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