On Wednesday, goaltending was a major talking point in Anaheim.
The big question ahead of the Maple Leafs vs. Anaheim Ducks game was whether Toronto would start Martin Jones in back-to-back games or give rookie Dennis Hildeby his NHL debut.
Sheldon Keefe, head coach of the Maple Leafs, went with the latter.
But when the game was over, Lukas Dostal’s story was on the other side of the rink, where he had stopped fifty-five shots. But Jones shouldn’t be disregarded either, having given up just one goal on his previous 59 shots in his last two games.
On Wednesday night, the goaltenders at the Honda Center had an incredible game.
Auston Matthews’ stick presented the Maple Leafs with their best opportunity of the opening frame. The 26-year-old attempts to tuck the puck behind Lukas Dostal after a scramble in front of the net, but former Maple Leaf Ilya Lyubushkin slams his stick down to stop the puck on the goal line.
The rise of Simon Benoit has been one of the season’s great stories. After the Ducks decided not to qualify the defenseman, the 25-year-old inked a one-year contract with Toronto, and the rest is history.
Colleague David Alter wrote a fantastic piece on how Benoit found success with Toronto and what direction his game could go before the Maple Leafs game against Anaheim.
In the first period, Benoit broke up a two-on-one with a brilliant sliding play after Anaheim had numerous offensive opportunities.
The second period saw more action as both teams traded opportunities. However, Bobby McMann unintentionally knocked Pavel Mintyukov into the boards nearly halfway through the game, leading to the 27-year-old forward’s ejection.
In the worst situation, you’re getting a boarding call. McMann bumps into Mintyukov with his shoulder. It’s not a risky play, nor is it a hit from behind. McMann immediately responded to the hit by fighting Lyubushkin, but I don’t think he ought to have been removed from the match.
Still, it would result in a power play for the Ducks. Following a roughing call against Jake McCabe by Alex Killorn, both teams would be down to four skaters.
As the four-on-four came to an end, Anaheim was able to take advantage of one of their opportunities.
About 12 minutes into the second half, Anaheim took a 1-0 lead thanks to a shorthanded goal from Frank Vatrano, who found himself all alone in front of the goal and managed to beat Jones after circling the seasoned goalie.
It was all Maple Leafs for the rest of the frame, but they were unable to solve Dostal, who had an amazing first two periods, blocking all 33 shots.
Though it appeared inevitable that Dostal would become the NHL record holder for the most saves in a shutout victory, Tavares finally got past the 23-year-old goalie on Toronto’s fifth power play of the contest, sweeping in a rebound for his 12th goal of the year.
Dostal was solved by Toronto’s 15th power play attempt, which also happened to be their 51st of the entire game. Who would have guessed?
The 23-year-old goalie stopped the final three shots in regulation after giving up the goal, creating a new record for the most saves in a single Ducks game with 54.
But in overtime, Anaheim’s good times would come to an end. Toronto applied relentless pressure, and Matthews would eventually find the twine behind Dostal on his 13th shot of the match.
With his 30th goal in 35 games this season, he now leads Nikita Kucherov by three goals in the league. Give the 26-year-old some credit; he eludes two Anaheim players, receives the puck, and scores his first game-winning goal of the year.
With their current winning streak, the Maple Leafs have swept this road trip through California. San Jose on Saturday night is the next stop.