Maple Leafs’ Sheldon Keefe Explains Why he Liked his Team’s Opening 20 Minutes Against Lightning Despite ‘Feeling Sh*tty About How That First Period Went’

Maple Leafs’ Sheldon Keefe Explains Why he Liked his Team’s Opening 20 Minutes Against Lightning Despite ‘Feeling Sh*tty About How That First Period Went’

Keefe saw positive glimpses despite trailing 4-1 and that helped spread a message of staying with it to get a comeback win against Tampa.

Ilya Samsonov smashed his helmet in disgust after allowing four goals on 12 shots and the Scotiabank Arena crowd booed their team off the Toronto Maple Leafs went into the first intermission down 4-1.

But Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe insisted the opening 20 minutes wasn’t as bad as it looked.

“You’re feeling pretty shitty about how the first period went, of course, everybody is,” Keefe said following his team’s 6-5 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. “That wasn’t that bad period, the puck just kept going in the net. So that’s makes it really hard.

“I thought we did good things, I thought we got a good start so the great goal was to get ourselves going. And I thought we sagged after they started scoring.”

Matthew Knies opened the scoring after fitting in nicely on a new-look first line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but the Maple Leafs allowed the next four tallies, chasing Samsonov out of a game against the Lightning for the second consecutive time.

That’s when Keefe settled the group down. Focused on the play outside of the net and Matthews went to work.

The NHL’s leading goal scorer recorded his 12th and 13th of the season, including gesturing to the crowd to make some noise.

“After the first just the energy and the boos and stuff, rightfully so, but we didn’t want them to go to sleep quite yet,” Matthews said of the gesture.

Calle Jarnkrok scored the first of his two goals on the night to tie the game 4-4. He picked up the rebound from Nick Robertson’s quick release in the slot.

“Rob is quick. He’s got a good shot on him and I think our line played pretty good today,”

Jarnkrok later scored the overtime winner that completed the Maple Leafs’ comeback.

But for Keefe, it was validation of shuffling up the mix of forwards after his club was begging for more secondary scoring.

Called up to make his season debut, Roberson was effective with Jarnkrok while Max Domi played center between them.

But there were some real issues in the game.

Despite what Keefe said, the Maple Leafs still didn’t look great in that opening period. There is a real concern for Samsonov’s confidence in the goal, given how frustrated he appeared to be after getting the hook again.

The defense still had issues tonight and may improve if Jake McCabe (groin) can return to the lineup on Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators.

But for now, the Leafs will focus on the positives. They had gone four consecutive games without a victory up until Monday.

 

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