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 follow-up 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.”
Keefe added the group is better equipped to handle tight games than at any point in his tenure.
“Our team’s more comfortable in those spots,” he said. “I certainly knew Calgary was going to be comfortable playing that third period 0-0. They’re on the road, it’s back-to-back, they love to keep scores really close.
“A big part of their identity is just doing their thing in that environment. We had to be comfortable there as well, but at the same time pushing to get the win.”
With his netminder shutting the door on chance after chance, Kylington started a break the other way five minutes into the third to put the visitors up 1-0. The smooth-skating defenceman dished off to Johnny Gaudreau before collecting the return feed and beating Campbell with a move to the backhand for his second at 4:55.
Vladar, who got the call ahead of No. 1 goalie Jacob Markstrom following Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, continued to shut the door for the visitors until Kase tipped Nylander’s one-timer at 12:54 for his third.
The Flames got their first power play of the evening when Kase went off for tripping, but the Leafs had the best chance when blueliner Jake Muzzin hit the post to set up OT.
“Kind of a playoff feel,” Campbell said. “Calgary’s a deep team. They have a lot of great structure and don’t give you too much.
“Their goalie played amazing and really kept them in it.”
Tavares returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday with a lower-body injury. The Maple Leafs will play their third contest in four nights Saturday in Buffalo against the Sabres.
The Flames continue a season-long, seven-game road trip Sunday versus the Ottawa Senators.
The Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2020 was honoured before the game after last year’s induction ceremony was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jarome Iginla, who served as Flames captain from 2003 through 2013, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilson and Kim St-Pierre are set to go into the hall in the player category Monday, while Ken Holland will enter as a builder.
Campbell fired out his glove to deny Dillion Dube on a 2-on-1 rush midway through Friday’s physical first period before Kase fired just wide after the Leafs caught Calgary on a bad change.
Toronto got the game’s first power play, with Vladar making a nice stop on Matthews’ one-time effort.
The Leafs got another man advantage late in the period, but the Flames goaltender was there to deny Matthews and Nylander.
Making just his third start of the season, and first since Oct. 26, Vladar then stopped Nylander with his glove after he slipped behind Calgary’s defence.
Tied with Tavares for the team’s goal lead with seven, the Leafs winger had another terrific chance late in the second when he tipped the puck past Mikael Backlund and stepped around Rasmus Andersson, but Vladar was there once again.
Kase saw his chance off the rush stopped by Vladar early in the third, and Toronto couldn’t push the puck over the line on the subsequent scramble moments before Kylington’s opener.
“It was close,” Campbell said. “Tough game, tough league.
“We kept the belief.”
Keefe said rookie backup goalie Joseph Woll, who’s with the big club because of Petr Mrazek’s groin injury, will make his NHL debut against the Sabres on Saturday. ... The Leafs and Flames wrap up their season series Dec. 16 in Calgary.