Samsonov struggles again, Leafs errors costly in OT loss to Jackets

Get the latest from Lance Hornby straight to your inbox

Article content

Before any more armchair psychoanalysts try and figure out what’s gone wrong in Ilya Samsonov’s head, maybe call a lawyer, too, about lack of support.

Advertisement 2

Article content

While four goals on the first 11 shots on net on Friday at Columbus did little for Samsonov’s shaken confidence, the Maple Leafs continue to do the Russian few favours, other than to try scoring their way past his and their mistakes.

Article content

For the first time, the Core Four of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares struck in the same road game. But they couldn’t hold a late third-period lead and lost 6-5 to the Blue Jackets on Johnny Gaudreau’s overtime goal.

Just as it seemed that Samsonov would get it together in the third period, young star Adam Fantilli rushed through the Leafs ranks to snap in the 5-5 equalizer. A couple of Samsonov stops in the extra period went for naught, after the Leafs sacrificed offence late in the game to over-compensate protecting their beleaguered goalie.     

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“We made bad mistakes at bad times (and) you can’t make those the way Sammy is going through (issues) right now,” coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters. “We scored five. We should win that game every time.” 

While Keefe didn’t want to speak for any moves general manager Brad Treliving might be considering, he indicated the plan was to keep letting Samsonov work through his slump — which includes four or more goals against in his past eight starts, and a save percentage well down in the .800s. 

Martin Jones is the only other healthy goalie while Joseph Woll recovers from a high ankle sprain and there is no appetite to rush Marlies’ Dennis Hildeby. 

Jones starts Saturday’s home game against Carolina to end the club’s calendar year and likely Tuesday against his first NHL team, the L.A. Kings, as Toronto begins a California road trip. 

Advertisement 4

Article content

“Tough game for me,” said Samsonov, who wound up stopping just 15 of 21 shots. “Last three games, I haven’t seen a lot of luck. It’s easy to put your head down, just cry and be sad. But I need to continue to work and maybe next game, maybe the next three games, the luck is back.” 

At the other end, Elvis Merzlikins had to pull himself with an illness after one period, leaving Spencer Martin to claim the win.  

“When we’re on our game, we’re attacking,” Marner said of sitting back too much. “Stay on the stuff we do extremely well. 

“I have a ton of confidence (in Samsonov) and I hope he knows that this whole team is behind him. We haven’t done the greatest job of stopping Grade-A chances against him and a couple of those were Grade-A’s in front.” 

Advertisement 5

Article content

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Keefe’s 300th NHL game was Toronto’s third against the Jackets this month, the two teams totalling 27 goals, including the Leafs’ five-goal comeback in Toronto two weeks ago.

The Jackets, meanwhile, added to the group of bottom seven NHL clubs that have held the Leafs to a 3-6-2 record this season. Toronto has lost three of four against bottom-feeder teams this month.

At least the Leafs stuck to the script early on to keep pressure off Samsonov. Until Timothy Liljegren stumbled on a breakout to give Cole Sillinger a puck in the slot with maximum bodies in front.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

With a two-goal lead, the Leafs were slow on a shift change in which Brendan Gaunce scored, Samsonov’s puck control once again under scrutiny when he couldn’t find a high rebound that landed behind him.

Advertisement 6

Article content

Marner had opened the scoring and then assisted on Matthews’ precision shot, his league-leading 29th goal. Matthews has been murder on the Jackets, netting 13 goals in 15 games against them and 15 in his past 11 overall.

He also became the fourth player in franchise history with a 15-goal month, joining Rick Vaive, who had 17 in January of 1983, Frank Mahovlich with 15 in December of 1960 and Babe Dye of the St. Patricks, 15 in February of 1921.

Nylander had another nifty delivery under the bar on a power play, but Samsonov couldn’t hold the lead. Big Dmitri Voronkov both screened and nicely deflected on a 4-on-3 power play from a needless Nylander minor. Then the Leafs defensive pair of Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie coughed up an open look for Kent Johnson.

Advertisement 7

Article content

Nick Robertson earlier ended a 14-game goal slump when he cruised through the slot and had a Liljegren shot deflect off of him.

Recommended from Editorial

With Mark Giordano back after 12 games recovering from a broken finger, William Lagesson joined Conor Timmins as a healthy scratch on defence. Giordano was with Liljegren, who was recently activated from an ankle injury as Simon Benoit held his spot in the lineup, now with Jake McCabe, an effective duo most of the evening.

But until they get the goaltending and defence straightened away, there’s little to celebrate.

[email protected]

Article content