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MIRACLE ON ICE: Emergency goalie and Hurricanes humiliate the Leafs – Toronto Sun

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In a season that has had some mighty embarrassments for the Maple Leafs, their performance on Saturday night pushed everything else out of the crease.

The Leafs — and all due respect to David Ayres — couldn’t even beat an emergency goalie at Scotiabank Arena.

Ayres, forced into the Carolina Hurricanes net midway through the second period after injuries to James Reimer and Petr Mrazek, was able to keep the Leafs at bay as Carolina won 6-3.

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Never mind the Leafs’ so-called efforts last week against Buffalo and Pittsburgh. This one was worse, and not just because the Leafs failed to take advantage of a non-NHL goalie.

Why couldn’t the Leafs build off the complete win against Pittsburgh on Thursday, which came after the one-sided losses to the Sabres and Penguins?

“It’s a great question,” captain John Tavares said after the loss. “It’s extremely disappointing, there’s no doubt about it.

“We get our game together and you see what we’re capable of and what we’ve done plenty of times this season. But our ability to sustain it has led to the situation we’re in and why we haven’t been able to separate ourselves (in the standings).”

Carolina might have won with a defenceman in net. The Leafs, outshot 47-25, had little interest in gaining a valuable two points in the playoff race.

The 42-year-old Ayres faced just seven Toronto shots in the third period as his teammates-for-a-night couldn’t have played more determined hockey in front of him.

“Just everyone look themselves in the mirror — it’s do-or-die time,” Mitch Marner said. “I’m not happy with myself.

“Dogs—t effort by myself. Too many turnovers.”

One has to wonder if general manager Kyle Dubas didn’t feel like making 20 trades before the NHL’s Monday deadline as he watched the humiliation unfold.

One or two trades won’t fix this Leafs team. And if Toronto does make the playoffs, who expects them to beat Tampa Bay or Boston?

The effort against Pittsburgh on Thursday might not have been a fluke, but the Leafs have been playing like the disorganized outfit that hit the ice on Saturday more often than not.

Ayres, who received a kidney transplant 15 years ago, has practised with the Leafs and the Toronto Marlies, including at the outdoor Leafs practice at Nathan Phillips Square in January. The arena maintenanceman/Zamboni driver has been the emergency goalie-in-waiting at Scotiabank Arena for the past three seasons.

Ayres was named first star, causing those still in the building to erupt in cheers.

“No disrespect to Davey, awesome guy, but when you have an emergency goalie like that come in, I think the consensus is to shoot the puck as much as possible,” Auston Matthews said.

The Leafs didn’t do that.

Mrazek gave way to Ayres at 11:19 of the second after a collision with Leafs forward Kyle Clifford. Mrazek skated out of his net to play the puck and collided with Clifford, who originally was given a charging major. After a review by referees Marc Joannette and Tom Chmielewski, the penalty was downgraded to a minor. A woozy Mrazek stayed down on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the dressing room.

Reimer started but departed the game early in the first period, giving way to Mrazek. Earlier, Reimer was bumped by teammate Jaccob Slavin, who was knocked into the netminder by Leafs forward Zach Hyman.

The Leafs, who play five of their next six on the road, were two points ahead of the Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division when the night began. Florida played at Vegas later on Saturday night.

A victory also would have served the Leafs well in the wildcard race, but the Hurricanes valued a win more.

The Leafs scored on their first two shots on Ayres, getting goals from Tavares and Pierre Engvall, bringing Toronto to within one to start the third.

But Warren Foegele scored his second of the game 53 seconds into the third, and less than three minutes later, Martin Necas scored on Frederik Andersen, who had another mediocre night.

Fans booed after the Necas goal, as they should have. Both the Foegele and Necas goals were unassisted, coming after sloppy play in the defensive zone.

“It’s another embarrassing night, right?” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Embarrassing nights shock the system a little bit.

“I think this game was different than the others. I don’t think it was a lack of work ethic. It was our execution. We couldn’t connect on a pass.”

GAME ON

The Leafs had a scare when defenceman Tyson Barrie — who may or may not be traded — went to the dressing room after he was crunched into the end boards by Carolina forward Andrei Svechnikov at 6:10 of the first period. Barrie appeared to be favouring his right shoulder, and it certainly didn’t look good. But Barrie was back on the ice to start the second period, and, presumably, back in the thick of trade speculation … Alex Kerfoot scored for the first time in 14 games when he gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead in the first … The Hurricanes scored four consecutive goals in the second period, starting with Lucas Wallmark at 5:46 and ending with Teuvo Teravainen at 13:17, to take a 4-1 lead.

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The free agent market is sizzling, who’s left for the Blue Jays?

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With MLB’s 2022 Winter Meetings in San Diego this week, the number of free agent signings has reached a frenzied pace. As of this writing, 44 free agents have already signed deals worth a combined $1.9 billion so far this offseason, headlined by monster deals for Yankees OF and AL MVP Aaron Judge (nine years, $360 million), new Phillies SS Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million), and new Texas ace Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million). That figure doesn’t include the reported five-year, $90 million guaranteed deal that Japanese star OF Masataka Yoshida apparently agreed to on Wednesday. The average free agent contract so far has been for 2.4 years and $44 million total value.

The Toronto Blue Jays have so far been unlucky in their free agent pursuits, highlighted by starter Kyle Gibson passing up the same one-year, $10 million offer made by Toronto to sign instead with the Baltimore Orioles. The Jays have also been mentioned in relation to starters Justin Verlander, Andrew Heaney and Jameson Taillon, as well as reliever Kenley Jansen and CF Cody Bellinger, who have all signed with other teams. All of their other AL East peers have been active this week signing and trading for players.

The need for a power-hitting left-handed bat to balance out the Jays lineup has been clearly defined as necessary to improve this club’s postseason chances following the Teoscar Hernández trade last month. A number of LHH OFs have agreed to deals already, including the above mentioned Masataka Yoshida, Joc Pederson, who accepted the San Francisco Giants $19.65 million qualifying offer (QO), and Cody Bellinger, who signed a one year, $17.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Remaining LHH free agent options in CF include Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Kiermaier. Should the Jays decide to keep George Springer in CF instead of moving him to right to reduce the wear and tear on his body, they could also look at left-handed hitters Joey Gallo or Michael Conforto in RF. Trading Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in a package for starting pitching or a CF like the switch-hitting Bryan Reynolds or Dalton Varsho might make sense if they were were able to sign one of Michael Brantley or Andrew Benintendi for LF, But those trades would both be costly in terms of the likely drain on an already bottom third ranked farm system.

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Further, with the St. Louis Cardinals signing free agent catcher Willson Contreras to a five year, $87.5 million contract, it appears less likely that the Cards might be a trade destination for one of the Blue Jays three catchers. One of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno in a deal for switch-hitting OF Dylan Carlson or LHH RF Lars Nootbaar looked good on paper, but now seems less likely.

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Well-rounded team effort leads Maple Leafs to second straight shutout win

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Maple Leafs tally three goals in 66 seconds to jump ahead vs. Kings

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

Maple Leafs’ Engvall receives match penalty for slashing Kings’ Durzi up high

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

 

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

Gotta See It: Maple Leafs’ Marner scores to extend point streak to 21 games

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

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