Ilya Samsonov Shines, Matthews Scores 65th in Win Over The Penguins

Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs took on a Pittsburgh Penguins team that is fighting for their playoff lives. The Penguins dominated the play for most of the game, but the Toronto Maple Leafs stuck to their game plan defensively and scratched out a win in overtime.
Samsonov Shines & Matthews Scores 65th goal in win over the Penguins
Samsonov Shines & Matthews Scores 65th goal in win over the Penguins / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

The Toronto Maple Leafs gave up more shots, scoring chances and high-danger chances to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night but some how snuck away with a 3-2 overtime win.

The Penguins came into this one desperate for points, one point behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild-card spot. They managed one point to tie the Red Wings, while the Toronto Maple Leafs got the second point and moved two points closer to the Florida Panthers while still having one game in hand.

If the Leafs were to pass the Panthers in the standings, it would secure home-ice advantage in round one of the playoffs.

The Leafs vs Panthers is a coin-flip series, but the Panthers clearly have a better blue-line and goaltending situation, so home-ice would be a major factor for the Leafs if they want to see round two.

Ilya Samsonov Shines In Toronto Maple Leafs Win Over Penguins

The Maple Leafs were a little flat tonight compared to the Penguins, but that is not shocking, considering the Penguins are entering must-win territory in every game they play.

The Penguins may have been the better team, but Ilya Samsonov stood on his head. The only two shots that got past him were shots he had no chance of stopping. The first was shot from a distance he did not see, as former Leaf Michael Bunting was parked in his vision, untouched in front of the net. The second was an unlucky deflection that found its way through a few bodies.

Samsonov saved +2.40 goals above expected last night which was pretty much the difference in the hockey game as the Penguins lead the expected goal scoring 4.40-2.24. That was the Samsonov's fifth straight win and the Maple Leafs are now 15-5 in games he has started since returning from the Minors. If it wasn't solidified already, this performance had to solidify his spot as the Leafs starting goalie in the playoffs.

Auston Matthews Hunt For 70 Goals Continues

Auston Matthews was excellent again against the Penguins. There were only three Maple Leaf forwards with an expected goal percentage above 50%, and it was the Matthews, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi combination.

Matthews did score his 65th goal of the season, which is tied for the most in the salary cap era. But what felt more impressive was that Matthews line only allowed three scoring chances and zero high-danger chances in 17 minutes at five-on-five. Despite chasing the rare 70 mark it's nice to see him maintain his defensive mindset which he has had all season on top of being the leagues best goal scorer.

The Leafs have five games left, and Matthews has to score five goals to hit seventy; the Maple Leafs have many tough games left, but Matthews has scored beyond goals in his last ten games.

This milestone is more than in reach, especially if the Maple Leafs can get Matthews out for a couple of empty-net scenarios. The Maple Leafs have five games left, and Matthews has to score five goals to hit seventy; the Maple Leafs have many tough games left, but Matthews has scored ten goals in his last 10 games.

More Unlikely Maple Leaf Heros In Win Over Penguins

We've seen the depth scoring come from guys like Bobby McMann, Pontus Holmberg, Nick Robertson, and other various places in the Leafs lineup, but tonight it was Jake McCabe and T.J. Brodie being the unlikely offensive heroes in this game.

McCabe was the big hero at the night's end, scoring his eighth goal of the season off a beautiful feed from Auston Matthews to win the game in overtime. Brodie helped open the scoring, making a quick pass through the slot to Matthew Knies, who had the easiest tap-ins.

Not only was Brodie able to contribute on the offensive end, but he was also excellent on the defensive end. He was not on the ice for a goal against; he led all Leafs defensemen in expected goal percentage, shot attempt, and shot percentage while also being on the ice for seven high-danger chances and none against while at five-on-five. (stats

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won five of their last six games but face a tough back-to-back scheduling spot against the New Jersey Devils tonight on the road. They may need Joseph Woll to steal them another game against a desperate team in a must-win game.