Matthews scores twice, Samsonov makes 18 saves as Maple Leafs blank Predators 4-0
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) and goaltender Ilya Samsonov (35) celebrate after defeating the Nashville Predators in NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, December 9, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, December 9, 2023 10:37PM EST
TORONTO - Auston Matthews scored twice and Ilya Samsonov made 18 saves for his first shutout of the season as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Nashville Predators 4-0 on Saturday.
David Kampf and Noah Gregor, into the empty net, had the other goals for Toronto (14-6-4). William Nylander added two assists, while John Tavares had one to give him 998 career points.
Kevin Lankinen stopped 33 shots for Nashville (14-13-0), which downed the Leafs 3-2 in overtime on Oct. 28 and had won three straight overall.
Samsonov got the start after Joseph Woll, who had grabbed hold of the No. 1 job, suffered a high ankle sprain in Thursday's 4-3 victory in Ottawa.
The Predators entered 9-2-0 over their last 11 games, while the Leafs were 7-2-1 over their previous 10.
Kampf opened the scoring in what was a low-event game to that point at 14:15 of the second period when he took a pass from Conor Timmins before splitting two defenders and roofing his third goal of the season
Matthews doubled that lead at 17:57 when Lankinen could only get a piece of William Nylander's pass on a give-and-go off the rush for the centre's 17th.
Samsonov, who picked up the 11th shutout of his career and first since April 1, made a good save off a Cody Glass deflection on a power play late in the period after Tommy Novak hit the post.
Leafs defenceman Jake McCabe delivered a huge hit on Luke Evangelista in the third and then dropped the gloves with Kiefer Sherwood.
Matthews put the game to bed with 3:11 left in regulation when he took a pass from Nylander and buried his 18th.
Gregor added an empty netter with Toronto killing a penalty with under two minutes to go to make it 4-0.
Samsonov, who entered with a 4-1-3 record to go along with a pedestrian .878 save percentage and 3.58 goals-against average in 10 starts, saw action for the first time since making 30 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss to Chicago on Nov. 24.
Lankinen stopped Mitch Marner and Max Domi on a pair of early chances in the first for Toronto before Samsonov denied Colton Sissons from the slot on a power play.
The Nashville goaltender robbed Noah Gregor on a short-handed breakaway on the same man advantage and Alexandre Carrier rattled Samsonov's crossbar.
Nylander also found iron at the other end after Lankinen gave the puck away.
Matthew Knies had a good chance for the Leafs when he made a power move to the front of Nashville's net early in the second, but Lankinen shot out his left leg to make the save before the Leafs eventually pushed ahead.
Predators centre Ryan O'Reilly and defenceman Luke Schenn played in Toronto for the first time since leaving in free agency.
The pair were acquired in separate deals before last season's trade deadline before helping the Leafs down Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs.
“Special,” O'Reilly said after Nashville's morning skate of suiting up for Toronto. “Such an amazing experience.”
Nashville defenceman Tyson Barrie returned to the lineup after being made a healthy scratch in three straight games.
The 32-year-old, who's in the final season of a contract that carries a US$4.5-million salary cap hit, had no goals and 10 assists in 23 contests heading into Saturday.
Nashville plays in Montreal on Sunday, while Toronto visits the New York Islanders on Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2023.