Matt Murray falters as Maple Leafs handled easily in loss to Kraken
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The Maple Leafs’ summer concerns about goalies were brushed aside as the 2022-23 season began.
Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov each overcame an early injury and provided sharp netminding for the Leafs in the early months, helping Toronto to firmly establish itself in second place in the Atlantic Division.
Those concerns have surfaced and are beginning to knock louder on the Leafs’ door.
After Samsonov struggled for a while, Murray put on a mediocre performance on Thursday night, allowing five goals on the Seattle Kraken’s first 17 shots in a 5-1 Leafs loss at Scotiabank Arena.
While it’s not at panic level yet — the Leafs still have a four-point lead over third-placed Tampa Bay Lightning — it would be wise for Murray or Samsonov to be much sharper in the club’s next game. That comes Saturday night at home against the Detroit Red Wings.
Overall, the Leafs have conceded at least four goals in four of their last five games. Thursday marked only the fourth time this season that the Leafs have given up at least five in a game.
Seattle built an insurmountable lead in the second half and extended it early in the third when Alex Wennberg converted a two-for-one.
Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe in the morning mentioned the Kraken’s ability to score five-for-five since Seattle was second in the National Hockey League in that category with 89 goals. The Leafs couldn’t do anything about it, although a save or two by Murray would have helped. The Kraken’s last four goals have been five against five.
Mitch Marner had one point in his NHL career to go to 499.
During the game, the NHL announced the first 32 players for the All-Star Weekend in Sunrise, Fla., February 3-4, and Marner was selected by the NHL’s Hockey Operations department to participate, as each team got a representative. This is Marner’s second time participating in the NHL’s All-Star Game. The fans will vote for the last 12 players.
After the first third ended goalless, the teams came together in five in the second third. Unfortunately, they didn’t add much to that total from the Leafs’ perspective.
Eeli Tolvanen opened the scoring at 7:02 during a power play in Seattle as his one-timer may have hit Mark Giordano before getting past Murray, who finished with 21 saves.
The Leafs responded during a four-minute power play that resulted when Yanni Gourde high-sticked Rasmus Sandin in the face. As Sandin made repairs before returning to the room, John Tavares scored at 10:54.
Marner set up Tavares’ goal when the captain deftly tapped Marner’s shot, landing the puck between Martin Jones’ legs.
“It’s cool, but try to play this game for a bigger reason,” Marner said in the morning as he neared 500 points. “I’m trying to focus on a bigger reason that’s trying to help our team win games, to help us achieve the big goal at the very end.
“I don’t think I would have thought much about it as a kid. As a kid, you think about playing in the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup. That’s the goal of everyone who plays in this league and when points come it’s a cool feeling but you try not to focus on that too much.”
The Leafs barely had time to think about using the goal for momentum when Seattle regained the lead 14 seconds later.
Vince Dunn got a shot that Murray should have stopped as the keeper took a chunk out of it with his left arm, but no more. That was the first of three Seattle goals, five-for-five, spanning six minutes and 17 seconds.
Jared McCann blew in on a breakaway after Giordano pinched and no one had him covered and went high-gloved against Murray at 1:50 p.m.
Matty Beniers, the NHL rookie leading scorer, came up short against Murray at 5:25 with another shot that the keeper could have deflected on a good night.
The Leafs did pretty much everything right in the first half, save for the most important thing – scored a goal and maybe charted a different course for the rest of the game.
Swift and determined, Toronto controlled the game and registered the first eight shots on goal before the Kraken finally put one through after 11 1/2 minutes against Murray.
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