Tkachuk leads Ottawa over Toronto; Leafs’ Murray misses start with undisclosed injury

Tkachuk leads Ottawa over Toronto; Leafs’ Murray misses start with undisclosed injury

TORONTO — DJ Smith is confident his group can run in the second half of the season.

The Senators head coach came out on top against one of the NHL’s top teams that he hopes will be successful in the future.

Brady Tkachuk scored two goals and Anton Forsberg made 31 saves as Ottawa beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2 on Friday night.

The Senators started 12 points below the playoff line but put on a quick, energetic performance against an Eastern Conference powerhouse who was second-best in almost every way after the first half.

“Every time you beat a top-end team, you build confidence,” Smith said. “We just want to be consistent and play well and not worry about the tables – just do what we do.

“Play it right, have fun, win a few hockey games and see what happens.”

Claude Giroux with a goal and an assist, Thomas Chabot, Drake Batherson and Derick Brassard had the other goals for Ottawa (22-23-3). Tim Stutzle added two assists as the Senators clinched their first win at Scotiabank Arena with fans in attendance since October 2018.

“We’ve faced a lot of adversity this year,” said Tkachuk, whose club was without center Josh Norris (shoulder) for much of the season. “We’re just headed in the right direction.”

William Nylander and Joey Anderson answered for Toronto (30-12-8), which was out with a knee sprain minus Auston Matthews, who will keep Starcenter out for at least three weeks.

Ilya Samsonov, who was set to get the night off, made a surprise start and finished with 28 saves as the Leafs suffered only their fourth regular home loss of 2022-23.

Matt Murray was set to see his first action in goal since Jan. 17 but occupied a spot at the end of the bench in place of Toronto’s crease.

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said afterwards that something Murray was dealing with on the injury front “flashed up” and he was unavailable.

Keefe, who added that the situation was unrelated to the groin injury that cost the netminder 15 games in the fall, suggested Toronto would have been forced to turn to an emergency if Samsonov was on his fifth straight start and sixth Occurrence in a row would have been breached fuse.

“We put (Samsonov) in a terrible place,” Keefe said. “And then we didn’t bother with him.”

Matthews, who will miss next week’s NHL All-Star Game in Florida, sustained his injury in Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime win over New York Rangers. The Leafs fell to 31-17-2 as the reigning Hart Trophy winner has been out of the lineup since picking him overall in the 2016 draft.

“We took our foot off the gas,” said Nylander. “Unacceptable.”

With a 2-2 second-half draw, Ottawa secured their third lead of the night on a power play when Brassard’s centering pass went through Toronto defender Timothy Liljegren to score his seventh goal of the season.

The Senators then made it 4-2 at 4:37 p.m. when Batherson demolished his 15th turnover.

“Back to hard work,” Samsonov said. “And more concentration.”

Tkachuk put things to bed at 3:32 in the third when he flicked his 18th upstairs before Giroux made it 6-2 with his 17th at 14:53.

“You can’t lose like that on home ice,” Keefe said. “You can’t have a goalkeeper who gave us absolutely everything, comes in a difficult situation and then you have a performance like that in the second and third.

“It should eat at us, but we will forget it very quickly.”

Ottawa opened the scoring with 1:32 of the first as Chabot played his eighth – and first in 18 games – with the teams playing 4-on-4.

Toronto equalized at 7:15 when Anderson fired his second shortside at Forsberg.

The Senators went 2-1 up just 23 seconds into the second when Tkachuk tipped his 18th past Samosonov after the Leafs flipped the puck.

But Toronto responded to a power play at 2:44 when Nylander hit his 27th home from the crease before Ottawa turned on him.

“It’s tremendous for us to have that confidence,” Tkachuk said as he handled the Leafs in impressive fashion at their rink. “It’s been a top team in recent years.

“To be able to play our game and play a full 60 minutes that’s something we can build on and something we want to keep improving at.”


The former Senators goaltender was set to make his first comeback since he allowed four goals from eight shots against Florida 11 days ago. Samsonov replaced Murray that night and held the line for Toronto to secure a comeback win in overtime before beating the next four of the Leafs 3-0-1. Murray, who was traded to Toronto in the summer, was also scheduled to face Ottawa in October but suffered a groin injury that kept him out until mid-November. Keefe said Friday morning Murray handled the situation well as he waited his turn. “He put his work into it,” Keefe said. “He wants to play. He’s a proud guy. Both guys are fighting for the net.”


Senators: host Montreal on Saturday.

Leaves: host Washington on Sunday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 27, 2023.


Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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