The potential for a Maple Leafs nightmare appears to be upon the team.
Already without goalie Matt Murray, who continues to recover from an adductor injury, the Leafs on Saturday night lost netminder Ilya Samsonov.
The latter didn’t return for the start of the third period against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena, giving way to third-stringer Erik Kallgren.
The Leafs said Samsonov suffered a knee injury, but the extent was not immediately known. Kallgren, already slated to start on Sunday in Carolina against the Hurricanes, made seven saves in the third.
Toronto otherwise had something to celebrate before a rambunctious crowd of 18,926, knocking off the Bruins, holders of the best record in the National Hockey League going into the game.
Auston Matthews scored two goals in a game for the first time in 2022-23, giving him six on the season and five in his past five games as the Leafs won 2-1. Toronto killed off two penalties in the third period, helping it improve to 6-4-2.
The win was the Leafs’ second in a row after they had sputtered with four consecutive losses. While Toronto hung on in the third, they were the better club through two periods, giving the Bruins few chances to make an offensive dent.
The options for the Leafs are few in the goaltending department. Joseph Woll remains out with a shoulder injury and has not played for the Toronto Marlies. Neither Marlies goalie — Dylan Ferguson and Keith Petruzzelli — are under contract with the Leafs. One bonus for the Leafs came earlier Saturday when winger Nicolas Aube-Kubel was claimed off waivers by the Washington Capitals. That brought the Leafs organization to 49 contracts, one less than the maximum of 50.
The Leafs, up 2-1 through 40 minutes, allowed just 14 shots on goal through the first two periods, and the Bruins required a penalty shot to beat Samsonov.
That came at 4:59 of the second when Brad Marchand went to his backhand to score on the free attempt. The shot was awarded after Marchand had broken in alone on Samsonov and was tripped by TJ Brodie. Not only was the goal the 800th NHL point or Marchand’s career, it gave him six goals on nine career penalty shots.
That tied the game 1-1, but the Leafs didn’t slouch.
Matthews scored his second at 14:07 during the Leafs’ first power play of the game, coming with Jake DeBrusk serving a holding minor.
On a fine solo effort, William Nylander carried the puck into the Bruins zone, darted around the net and fed Matthews, who was open at the top of the crease. The result was an easy tap-in for Matthews and restored a one-goal lead for Toronto. Tomas Nosek had a chance to check Matthews at the net, but ignored what should have seemed obvious.
Matthews scored the only goal in the first period, producing his second of the season at five-on-five. After Michael Bunting won a battle behind the net with Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo, he kicked the puck to Matthews, who in turn stuffed a shot on the short side past goalie Linus Ullmark.
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The Leafs got a bit of clarity in their bottom six when Aube-Kubel, who couldn’t find a footing in Toronto and was scratched in five of the previous six games, was claimed by the Caps.
“We really like the player, it hasn’t worked out for him the way we had foreseen,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said in the morning. “He has not played to his own expectations. We’ll have to see how (the waiver process) shakes out.”
The signing of Aube-Kubel, who was a spare part in the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup run last spring, was a big whiff on the part of the Leafs. Toronto just had to have Aube-Kubel, officially adding him less than a half-hour after free agency opened on July 13. But rather than make an impact, Aube-Kubel was a non-factor in six games.