Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Samsonov, O’Reilly & Gio

The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in what turned out to be a miraculous Game 4 and now have a commanding 3-1 series lead in their first-round matchup. 

The Maple Leafs erased a three-goal deficit in the third period, scoring three goals in a span of 6 minutes and 20 seconds, including two goals from Auston Matthews, and Morgan Rielly’s second goal of the series to tie the game at 16:04 of the third. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Noel Acciari and Alex Kerfoot also scored for Toronto. Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov stopped 27 shots, including a penalty shot by Brandon Hagel in the first period.

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For the Lightning, Alex Killorn scored twice, and Mikhail Sergachev and Steven Stamkos added a goal each. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots but couldn’t prevent Kerfoot from redirecting Mark Giordano’s shot past him for the game-winning goal at 4:14 of overtime.

Item One: What an Incredible Comeback Win 

The Maple Leafs pulled off an incredible comeback win against the Lightning. Although Kerfoot got the winner, the game would not have reached that point without the effort of the entire team. 

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What impressed me was how much time Rielly spent talking positively about Kerfoot after the game. They seem like a group that truly likes playing together.

Item Two: Samsonov Was Solid Despite Allowing Four Goals 

Samsonov allowed four goals but still helped the team take home the win in overtime by stopping 27 of 31 shots. Despite posting a 3.72 goals-against-average and .876 save percentage in the playoffs, he is now 3-1 in the series. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Samsonov Has a 2-Game Tumble – Blip or Concern?

The goaltenders have yet to steal a game in this series, but Samsonov has been better when it counted, making some crucial saves in overtime. He’s obviously the Maple Leafs’ go-to goalie for these playoffs. What happens next season?

Item Three: Key Contributions from the Maple Leafs’ Blue Line

Giordano registered two assists in the game, snapping his 11-game scoring drought. He goes about his business in a solid way. He’s been quietly one of the most important players on the team this season.

Rielly scored the late third-period goal to tie the game at 4-4; his second important goal in two games after scoring the Game 3 winner in overtime. 

Mark Giordano Toronto Maple Leafs
Mark Giordano, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Both defensemen played a crucial role in the team’s victory, while the rest of the Maple Leafs’ defence played well enough. Luke Schenn and Justin Holl made simple plays to move the puck; Holl is winding up and shooting from the point quite a bit. That seems to be the strategy against Vasilevskiy. Jake McCabe is consistently around the play as well.

Item Four: Matthews Carried His Team to the Win

Matthews carried the team on his back in the third. He decided to take over the game and did, scoring two goals. His redirection goal happened so quickly that a new camera angle had to be found so fans could actually see how skillfully it happened. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews Is Undergoing a Transformation

Matthews has been a standout performer throughout the series, with three goals and four assists (for seven points) in four games. He became the leader who sparked the team’s comeback. 

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His heroics on Monday night spurred the Maple Leafs’ comeback from an almost insurmountable 4-1 deficit in the third period, especially the way the Lightning played during the first two periods.

Item Five: O’Reilly Extends His Point Streak 

Ryan O’Reilly registered two assists to extend his scoring streak. He’s now had a point in every game this postseason.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy makes the lunging pad save against Toronto Maple Leafs Ryan O’Reilly (Photo by Gavin Napier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When the Maple Leafs acquired O’Reilly from the St. Louis Blues, they hoped the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner could elevate the team in the postseason. He’s done just that, with two goals and five assists (for seven points) in four games.

Item Six: Nylander Has “Off Night” with Three Assists 

William Nylander had a bit of a tough game. That is, until he didn’t. He came through in the end, using hard work to draw the penalty that led to Kerfoot’s power-play goal. 

Nylander ended the night with three assists, two of which came with the man advantage. 

Item Six: Noel Acciari Scores the Maple Leafs’ First Goal

Noel Acciari also scored a goal, his second of the playoffs, to reduce the Lightning’s lead to 2-1 in the second.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs have a 3-1 series lead. The team banded together, with key contributions from several players. They now have a chance to close out the series on Thursday night. I can’t imagine the Lightning will “go gentle into that good night” as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote.

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The team has been firing on all cylinders, with solid contributions from players like Matthews, O’Reilly, and Marner, who will be crucial as they look to move to the second round of the 2023 Playoffs.