Matthews scores in OT, Maple Leafs grind out 2-1 victory over Flames
TORONTO – Auston Matthews knew his stick was damaged as he moved in alone on an overtime breakaway Friday.
The Maple Leafs sniper fired into the pads of Flames backup goalie Dan Vladar before promptly heading to the bench to reload.
“It cracked in the defensive zone,” Matthews explained. “Going all the way down the ice I had that in my head, and it wasn’t good.”
Back on the ice shortly thereafter with a new piece of graphite, he made his next chance count.
Matthews buried the winner five-hole at 2:32 of overtime as Toronto picked up its seventh victory in eight games by defeating Calgary 2-1.
Ondrej Kase had the goal in regulation for Toronto (9-5-1), while William Nylander added two assists. Jack Campbell made 30 stops.
“It was a tight game — not a whole lot of quality offence,” Leafs captain John Tavares said. “A lot of battles. Big, veteran team that they have, they compete hard and defend really well.
“We just had to stay with it.”
Oliver Kylington opened the scoring for Calgary (7-3-4) in the third period. Vladar made 35 saves for the Flames, who have dropped three straight (0-2-1).
“It wasn’t how we wanted it to end,” Kylington said. “But I thought we showed good work ethic.
“A lot of positives to take away from this game.”
Vlader stopped Matthews on that OT break and Mitch Marner on a followup opportunity before Campbell shut the door on another frantic 3-on-3 sequence to set up the reigning Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy winner’s sixth goal of the season.
“When they scored we didn’t get down,” Matthews said. “We played solid throughout the whole game.
“They make it hard to generate offence, especially on the inside. We stuck with it, kept grinding.”
The Leafs were coming off a 3-0 shutout victory on the road in Philadelphia, which followed Monday’s disappointing 5-1 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
After the defeat, Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said he wanted to see more consistency from his team — especially on the heels of solid performances — and got exactly that Friday.
“We had some really good moments in that first period and didn’t give up a whole lot,” he said. “We didn’t have any real dips in the game, and we didn’t hurt ourselves.
“We had more than enough opportunities to score first.”