Red Wings send Maple Leafs to third straight loss

TORONTO – Ilya Samsonov was solid in his first start since Dec. 29. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs failed to get him a win.

Andrew Copp scored the go-ahead goal with 1:40 remaining in the third period and the Detroit Red Wings handed the Maple Leafs their third consecutive loss with a 4-2 decision on Sunday. Samsonov made 20 saves in his fifth straight loss starting in net.

“He battled his (butt) off,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Samsonov. “It’s the best I thought he’s looked all season just in terms of tracking the puck and some of the saves looked like the Sammy that we came to know last season so I think this is a positive step for him.”

“He made a couple of massive saves for us throughout the game,” forward Mitch Marner added. “It was great to hear the fans chant his name and give him the love he deserves.”

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Samsonov was waived Dec. 31 and then joined the Maple Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. He was recalled by the Leafs on Wednesday, with rookie netminder Dennis Hildeby being loaned to the Marlies.

Samsonov was announced the starter earlier Sunday by Keefe and had a 5-2-6 record on the season entering the game. He went 1-1-3 in December, earning a shutout in the win before surrendering 21 goals in four straight losses.

But Samsonov said he felt good Sunday and taking things step by step is his “mission.”

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“First one, I’m so happy to be here,” Samsonov said. “I lost a couple of weeks, I got some time for me. Coming back today, I think I’m seeing puck really good. … I feel good. A little bit (I) reset my mind. … Hard to talk about result.”

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Keefe felt his team just fell short offensively in the second game of a back-to-back set.

“Not enough offence for us here tonight,” he said. “They defended well … the (Max) Domi breakaway, I would say, was one of the only times we really got behind them in the whole game.

“I thought that they played a pretty simple game that way defensively and as a result, you got to really earn your offence and we weren’t able to get enough going there.”

Dylan Larkin, Daniel Sprong and Lucas Raymond also scored for Detroit (22-16-5), which won for the fifth time in its last six games and also played the second game of a back-to-back. James Reimer made 28 saves.

“Really unique 24 hours … weather, mechanical issues, it was crazy. To show up for a 7 p.m. (ET) hockey game in the National Hockey League at 6:15 (p.m.) is very unique and unusual,” Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde said, referring to the half-hour delay to the game’s start with Detroit travelling over from Los Angeles.

“But I thought our guys handled it pretty well. There was things we couldn’t control. In the last 24 hours, the only thing we could control was our effort and our execution tonight and it was a pretty good job from the guys.”

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Pontus Holmberg and Marner, with his 600th career point, replied for Toronto (21-12-8) in front of 18,772 in attendance at Scotiabank Arena.

“We obviously played a good enough game to win it,” Marner said. “Just little errors, (tough) bounce on the one goal with (Morgan Rielly) breaking his stick but obviously not happy about it.”

Holmberg opened the scoring 32 seconds into the second period, tipping in a Rielly point shot.

Larkin knotted the contest with 4:21 remaining in the middle frame with a wrist shot that beat Samsonov glove side.

Marner restored Toronto’s lead with 1:42 left in the second on a tap-in goal off a feed from Tyler Bertuzzi.

Sprong evened the score 2:46 into the third period. Rielly broke his stick attempting a point shot, and Alex DeBrincat sprung Sprong on a breakaway and he beat Samsonov with a backhand.

Copp put the Red Wings ahead just moments after the crowd was chanting “Sammy” following a sprawling save on DeBrincat by Samsonov.

Raymond scored an empty-netter with 18.9 seconds remaining.


Maple Leafs: Head to Edmonton to open a four-game road trip against the red-hot Oilers on Tuesday.

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Red Wings: Fly south to Florida to face the Panthers on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2024.

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