The Toronto Maple Leafs finally scored the all-important first goal against their opponent during Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. William Nylander’s goal four minutes into the game provided an early spark.
The good vibes didn’t last long, however. Penalty trouble followed and the potent Lightning power play shifted the Toronto Maple Leafs early momentum.
With a little over six minutes left in the first period, Nikita Kucherov’s second power-play goal put the Lightning ahead 3-1 and the Leafs looked like they were in for a long night.
It was only the fourth shot of the period for the Lightning, but three of them got by Leafs starting goaltender Ilya Samsonov. Head coach Sheldon Keefe pulled his starter and sent in backup Joseph Woll.
Woll Deserves Run in Toronto Maple Leafs Net
From that moment forward the Leafs regained control of the game.
Keefe also deserves credit for shuffling his lines and finding combinations that worked.
Moving Nylander to left wing with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner was effective, and the Leafs comeback doesn’t happen without the contributions of Matthew Knies and Max Domi, but the move to Woll was the catalyst to the Leafs overtime victory.
Anyone watching the game could see the confidence level of the Leafs players had shifted. Granted this is immeasurable, but the eye test demonstrated a surge in belief among the team.
More penalty trouble in the second period was met with increased desperation. Woll was making saves and defenders were sacrificing themselves to block shots. Multiple penalties were killed, including a brief 5 vs 3 disadvantage.
His biggest stop came late in the third period with Kucherov, the Lightning’s most dangerous player during this game, on the door step.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had just tied the game 3-3 and Kucherov had two glorious chances in tight to steal two points for the home team. Woll had none of it and turned them both aside.
In his two appearances thus far this season, Woll has exuded a calm, collected presence in the net, a continuation from last year. He appears to have the right temperament for playing goal in a market such as Toronto.
Before the season started, it wasn’t a far reaching prediction to see Woll overtaking Samsonov as the Leafs starting goalie.
While it’s too early to declare Woll the number one netminder, Keefe’s next move should be announcing that Woll will start the Toronto Maple Leafs next game on Tuesday in Washington.
If he plays well in that game, and with Samsonov slumping, Woll should play the game in Dallas as well. He has earned it.