The host Toronto Maple Leafs will try for their second straight victory while the new-look Ottawa Senators will be going for their first win of the season on Saturday night.
After dropping their season-opener to the host Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs bounced back to defeat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Thursday in the opener of a four-game homestand.
The Senators lost their season-opener Thursday, 4-1, to the Sabres in Buffalo.
The Maple Leafs failed to execute their game plan Wednesday. Coach Sheldon Keefe expressed his displeasure and talked to the team about it.
“You don’t want to use one of those bullets after Game 1, but it was important,” Keefe said. “We have high expectations as a team, not just in terms of the results that we want to get as we go through this journey but just how we conduct ourselves and how we perform.
“The first game of the season was a good opportunity for us to build positive momentum and we didn’t get that done. So I think it was important for us to really talk about that, be honest about it, not just brush it aside as just another game or just one game of 82. We had a frank discussion (Thursday) morning, and I thought the guys responded really well.”
Auston Matthews, who had 60 goals last season, scored the winner on a deflection in the third period. It was his first goal of the season.
“It was a good bounce back,” Matthews said. “This wasn’t an easy game, it took the full 60 minutes.”
Toronto’s new goaltenders, Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, have each played a game.
Murray did not impress in Montreal, while Samsonov overcame two early goals before settling in against his former team, the Capitals, on Thursday.
“Samsonov, after giving up two early in the game, keeps it there,” Keefe said. “That’s all you can ask for. If a goalie can keep it at two or less, we’ve got a really good chance to win consistently. So I really liked how he just dug in and kept it there. It’s a big win for us and a big win for him.”
While expectations are high for the Maple Leafs, the rebuilding Senators are trying to take the next step. They added Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux for that purpose.
“I thought we had a really good first period,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said after the game on Thursday. “We’ve got to score on the power play, which has been really good for us, but tonight it wasn’t. We didn’t create enough chances and we didn’t score on the five-on-three.”
Brady Tkachuk scored for Ottawa. Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg was solid, allowing two goals on 34 shots. Buffalo had two empty-net goals in the final minute.
“I thought we had a weak three minutes in the second period where they got a couple on us. We had plenty of chances, we had breakaways, we had two-on-nones and we just couldn’t capitalize. It was execution. The guys wanted it, maybe too much. They were squeezing it and it didn’t go in the net but there were plenty of chances there.”
Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, who scored a goal on Thursday and had two assists on Wednesday, is two points away from 900 in his 14-season NHL career.
–Field Level Media