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WOLL A WALL: Newbie leads Leafs past Isles with first NHL shutout


Marner scores twice as Toronto rebounds after loss to Pittsburgh

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Joseph Woll is in a New York state of mind.

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Eight nights after winning in his National Hockey League debut in Buffalo, the Maple Leafs goaltender did himself one better on Sunday, making 20 saves on Long Island for his first NHL shutout.

The Leafs won for the 11th time in 13 games, nicely shoving aside an uninspiring effort in a loss to Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, with a 3-0 victory against the Islanders in the second game at UBS Arena.

Toronto has won its past four road games. On Monday, the Leafs will travel to California, settling into West Coast time before their three-game swing through the state starts on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Woll was the beneficiary of another fine defensive effort by the Leafs, which is becoming the norm. The depleted Islanders never really threatened and have lost six in a row while being outscored 27-6.

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The Isles have six players — captain Anders Lee and fellow forwards Josh Bailey, Ross Johnston and Kieffer Bellows, and defencemen Adam Pelech and Andy Greene — in COVID protocol. Another stalwart on the blue line, Ryan Pulock, is out with a lower-body injury.

On a night that Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe made some switches to his lines, Mitch Marner paced the Leafs with two goals and hard-working Ondrej Kase provided another.

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Kase departed in the third after blocking a shot, appearing to favour his left side, but returned to the game. He departed again after crashing into the end boards.

Other than Woll spelling off Jack Campbell, Keefe didn’t make any lineup changes from the group that lost to Pittsburgh. Keefe changed it up on the left side, promoting Michael Bunting to the top line with Auston Matthews and Marner, dropped Nick Ritchie to the third line with David Kampf and Kase, and put Pierre Engvall alongside Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds.

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Only Alex Kerfoot, on the left with captain John Tavares and William Nylander, remained in his usual spot.

Keefe wanted to get a bit of a spark going in actual production at five on five. The Leafs have great underlying numbers on offence, but have not converted with consistency.

Going into the game, they were 26th in the NHL in goals per game with an average of 2.53; at five on five, the Leafs had 30 goals, putting them at 18th in the league.

That’s not a true measure of the talent they boast in their top six.

“It has been a challenge looking at the things we can do better, because when we break it down and start to look at trends across the league and what teams are doing, statistically we’re right there at the at the top in a lot of different statistical categories,” Keefe said before the game. “Yet the results haven’t been there. We’re just continuing to look for ways to do different things. But at the same time, we reinforce the fundamentals of offence, (one of) which is the frequency in which we attack the net and get to the inside.”

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The Leafs got their first five-on-five goal of the night at the two-minute mark of the third.

Ritchie showed some hustle on the forecheck to beat an icing, then outworked Isles defenceman Grant Hutton to get the puck to Kampf. The latter then centred to Kase, who popped a shot past goalie Ilya Sorokin.

Ritchie’s assist was his third and first at five on five. He has not yet scored in 20 games.

Marner scored on a pass from Bunting at 13:29 of the third.

The Leafs, who recalled forward Joey Anderson from the Toronto Marlies, enjoyed a solid first period and carried a 1-0 lead into the intermission.

The first shorthanded goal of 2021-22 for the Leafs came from the stick of Marner, who was the recipient of a superb pass from Jake Muzzin. After taking Muzzin’s heads-up feed — the Leafs defenceman was deep in the Toronto end when he spotted Marner at the Islanders blue line — Marner darted in on Sorokin, kept Mathew Barzal at bay and went to his backhand to score.

The goal, Marner’s fifth of the season, came at 3:31 while the Isles were on a 4-on-3 advantage.

Woll, meanwhile, shone in the opening 20 minutes. If there was any hint of nerves, he hid hit rather well, turning aside all six Islanders shots. Bang-bang saves on Zach Parise and ex-Leaf Richard Panik were Woll’s best.

The Leafs had 40 shots on Sorokin.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

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