OTTAWA — Matt Murray’s time as a member of the Ottawa Senators didn’t go exactly as planned, but Saturday night he proved to be the difference for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-4 shootout win.
Murray, making his first start against his former team, made 48 saves and stood tall in a shootout that went nine rounds.
The 28-year-old Murray spent two seasons with the Senators, but only played 47 games as he dealt with injuries and a demotion to the American Hockey League before being traded last summer.
Toronto’s Alexander Kerfoot scored what would prove to be the winner in a lengthy shootout battle.
Murray admitted he didn’t even see the winner.
“You just try to hold the fort as long as you can,” he said. “By the end of it, I kept my head down when Kerfoot went in. I had my head kind of buried in my hands. I wasn’t watching, just listening.”
The game was forced into extra time after Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk scored two late third-period goals to tie the game 4-4.
Murray made a great save on Tim Stutzle in overtime to keep the game going as the Senators held the advantage in play during the extra period.
“A marathon of a game,” said Murray. “Super exciting game to be a part of. A lot of emotion out there, a lot of energy in the building. Obviously, nice to get that extra point. It was a fun one to be a part of.”
Calle Jarnkrok had a pair of goals, while Jake McCabe and Mitch Marner also scored for the Leafs (42-18-9).
With the loss, the Senators (33-31-5) are now mired in a five-game losing streak.
“Another night where I thought we deserved to win,” said Tkachuk. “Of course, anything happens in a shootout there, but (Sogaard) gave us a chance to win and it’s unfortunate but a lot of guys stepped up tonight.”
Julien Gauthier and Tim Stutzle also scored for the Senators. Mads Sogaard, making his sixth start in seven games, made 25 saves.
“I thought we played real hard,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “I thought for stretches we carried the play. We did make some mistakes, but I think, to a man, we came to win today and I think it just didn’t go our way.
“The guys, you can’t fault them. I mean, they’re playing as hard as they can.”
Toronto made it 4-2 midway through the final period when Auston Matthews and Jarnkrok converted a two-on-one with Jarnkrok capitalizing on a great feed by Matthews, to set a career high with 17 goals on the season.
“He’s a great player,” said Matthews of Jarnkrok. “I mean, he’s just so sneaky good at so many things.
"So smart, gets into great spots all over the ice, not just in the offensive zone. He’s just a really easy guy to play with. Obviously, his release, it’s one of the prettiest releases I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a lot of fun watching him get the puck off.”
Despite being down a pair of goals the Senators didn’t sit back and continued to push and were able to cut the lead to one just over a minute later when Tkachuk beat Murray high stick side from in close.
With Sogaard on the bench, the Senators appeared to tie the game on an Alex DeBrincat goal, but upon video review the goal was ruled offside.
Ottawa had a second chance when TJ Brodie took a tripping penalty with 46 seconds remaining and Tkachuk scored the equalizer with 10.1 seconds left on the clock.
“We always want to win, but in the end you always have to see the whole picture and fighting back against a team like that and two goals down, I think we did a great job to stay with it the whole time,” said Stutzle.
“We were there when we had to be and unfortunately really no luck in the shootout and (Sogaard) did a great job.”
Tied 1-1 to start the second the Senators took the lead when Stutzle scored a short-handed goal, extending his point streak to six games (4G, 7A), but 37 seconds later, on the same power play, Marner tied the game with his 26th of the season.
The Senators dominated the shot clock and were outshooting Toronto 32-11 at one point early in the second.
“I’m sure it’ll do lots for his confidence,” said Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe of Murray facing so many shots. “It was good he was busy. We’ve been talking a lot about how he hasn’t been busy enough in terms of the workload in the games he’s played of late here. … They threw a lot at him, a lot of traffic at the same time, and he handled it really well.”
Toronto took the lead midway through the period when Jarnkrok one-timed a Matthews pass from the circle.
Toronto opened the scoring with McCabe scoring his first as a Leaf when he beat Sogaard with a shot from the slot early in the period. The Senators tied the game late in the period when the puck bounced high in the air off Gauthier and past Murray.
Toronto’s Ilya Samsonov and Noel Acciari did not make the trip to Ottawa. Samsonov and his wife are expecting a baby “any day now.” Mark Giordino and Erik Gustafssinn were scratched for rest. Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot was in the lineup despite not being 100 per cent. Mark Kastelic and Nick Holden were scratched.
The Senators are back in action Monday night as they head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins, while the Leafs will take on the New York Islanders Tuesday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2023.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press