By Tim Booth, The Associated Press on January 21, 2024.
SEATTLE (AP) – Auston Matthews scored his league-leading 38th goal in the first period, Ilya Samsonov got his first NHL win since early December, and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Seattle Kraken 3-1 on Sunday night.
Matthews scored early, Nicholas Robertson tallied in the second period and Jake McCabe added an empty-net goal with 20 seconds left as Toronto closed out its western swing with a victory. Samsonov finished with 16 saves.
The Leafs had dropped five of their previous six games, including a loss on Saturday in Vancouver. But Samsonov made a handful of key saves and won for the first time since shutting out Nashville on Dec. 9.
Samsonov’s best save came with 6:39 left in the third period when he got a right pad to Justin Schultz’s shot toward an open net. It was Seattle’s first shot of the period as Toronto’s defence suffocated the Kraken in the final 20 minutes.
Jordan Eberle scored for Seattle, and Joe Daccord made 23 saves.
Seattle lost its fourth straight, the previous three coming at the conclusion of the Kraken’s longest road trip of the season and it’s been a stretch where the Kraken have been short-handed. On top of centre Matty Beniers and top defenceman Vince Dunn still being out with injuries, the Kraken were without centre Yanni Gourde against the Leafs as he served the first of a two-game suspension for charging.
Matthews scored his fifth goal in the past four games, making a nifty move to pull a pass from Mitch Marner to his backhand and slide the shot past Daccord’s left pad. It was the 57th time in his career Matthews has scored the game-opening goal, surpassing George Armstrong for third-most in Toronto history.
Robertson made it 2-0 early in the second with his seventh goal of the season. Seattle’s Jaden Schwartz was caught out of position and Max Domi found Robertson down the wing on an odd-man rush to give the Maple Leafs the two-goal advantage.
But holding leads has been a problem for Toronto and Seattle pulled within 2-1 on Eberle’s goal with just under six minutes remaining in the second period. Oliver Bjorkstrand hit the post on a breakaway moments later and a series of sprawling saves by Samsanov late in the period denied Tomas Tatar a tying goal.
Maple Leafs: Host Winnipeg on Wednesday.
Kraken: Host Chicago on Wednesday.
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