The Maple Leafs were outshot 52-29 on Saturday. They were outhit 34-25. They won fewer faceoffs than the Senators. They coughed up the puck more often and had fewer takeaways.
There is one reason they escaped Ottawa with a 5-4 victory: Matt Murray played his keister off.
It hasn’t been much of a season for the 28-year-old goalie. He has been hurt a lot and has performed erratically when in the net. He has been outshone by Ilya Samsonov.
The latter has a few bumps and bruises and his wife is due to give birth any day. So he was granted a day off against the Senators and Murray slotted in against his former team.
All he did was make 48 saves through 60 minutes and a five-minute overtime and then turn away Tim Stutzle, Claude Giroux, Brady Tkachuk, Shane Pinto, Thomas Chabot and Jakob Chychrun in the longest shootout of his career.
Alexander Kerfoot, who has not had a goal in two dozen games, scored in the ninth round to give the Maple Leafs the 5-4 triumph.
“You just try to hold the fort for as long as you can,” Murray said.
Unless Samsonov sustains an injury, it is unlikely that Murray will see much time in the playoffs beyond a relief role. But if he continues to play as he did on Saturday, Toronto can feel a little more comfortable if he is needed on an emergency basis.
His numbers aren’t bad – 13-7-2 with a .905 save percentage – but it has been a topsy-turvy kind of season. At times, he has seemed as fragile as porcelain. Like many goalies, he is a bit of an odd duck.
He is more comfortable working one on one with his goalie coach and takes less ice time during practice than most of his contemporaries. Of course, he won Stanley Cups twice with Pittsburgh so nobody is going to argue if that is what works for him.
The Maple Leafs had a good weekend – a Friday night win at home against Carolina and then Saturday’s nail-biter in Canada’s capital. They are on the road for four games this week – in New York against the Islanders on Tuesday, in Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers on Thursday, in Carolina on Saturday and at Nashville on Sunday.
It looks like a good window for Murray to see more action with a start or two possibly tossed in for No. 3 if Samsonov is pulling diaper duty.
Murray shined in his first game in Ottawa since the Senators traded him to Toronto last summer. The 48 saves were the second most he has made in an NHL game after 50 for the Penguins in 2019 against Philadelphia.
“It will do lots for his confidence,” said Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leafs coach.
Murray spent two mostly unsuccessful seasons in Ottawa where he won just 15 of 47 games. It was clearly not a happy time for him but he is careful always to say the right things.
He talked about how it was nice to be back at Canadian Tire Centre, nice to renew some acquaintances with staff and allowed that there was “a lot of emotion out there.”
He chooses words carefully and chose to reflect mostly on the game.
“It was a marathon of a game,” he said. “Superexciting and fun to be a part of. A lot of energy in the building. Nice to get that extra point.”
He is a goalie not an orator.
His teammates appreciated his performance. Toronto led 4-2 in the third period before Tkachuk sent it to overtime by scoring twice, the second on a power play in the waning seconds.
“He was amazing,” Mitch Marner said. “He made massive saves for us. He did a great job staying with it.”
The 52 shots on goal were the most the Maple Leafs have allowed this season. The previous high was 44.
“He was a brick wall,” Auston Matthews said. “He doesn’t get rattled in there. He just kept playing. He goes on to the next shot. He kept us in the game.”
He kept them in the game and, in likely what has been the high point of the season for Toronto, Murray won it.