Holl scores in NHL debut as Maple Leafs blank Islanders 5-0
TORONTO (AP) Justin Holl walked into Air Canada Centre on his own a couple hours before Wednesday night’s game, with his minor league equipment bag and a bundle of sticks in his hands.
He originally expected to have the day off. He was sure glad he played.
Holl scored in his NHL debut and Travis Dermott got his first goal in his ninth career game, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-0 victory over the New York islanders.
”It’s almost surreal,” Holl said. ”You’re like `Wait did that really happen?’ And you’re like, `Nice, it did.”’
The 26-year-old Holl joined the Toronto organization on an AHL contract in 2015-16 before earning a two-way deal last season. He played in 239 minor league games before suiting up against New York.
”I have confidence in my abilities, sometimes you have to work a little harder for the things you want,” said Holl, who was selected by Chicago in the second round of the 2010 draft. ”You have faith it’s all gonna turn out all right.”
Holl and Dermott spent parts of the last two seasons together on the Toronto Marlies, making the evening that much more special for the blue-line duo.
”Crazy, you can’t put it into words,” the 21-year-old Dermott said. ”You can’t write it up any more perfect with (Holl) up here as my partner.
”It all came together perfect tonight.”
Kasperi Kapanen, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner also scored for the Maple Leafs (29-18-5), and Frederik Andersen made 28 saves for his fourth shutout of the season.
Thomas Greiss stopped 45 shots for the Islanders (25-22-5), who also lost 4-1 at home against Florida on Tuesday.
”Just really unacceptable the level we’re playing at,” captain John Tavares said. ”Not gonna win too many hockey games the way we’ve played the last couple nights.”
Toronto had three rookie defensemen in the lineup after scratching regulars Morgan Rielly (upper body), Roman Polak (viral infection) and Ron Hainsey (illness). Holl made his NHL debut alongside first-year skaters Andreas Borgman and Dermott. Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev returned to Toronto’s lineup after missing 17 games with a foot injury.
The Maple Leafs scored twice in each of the first two periods.
”When you play a fast team like that it’s always a challenge,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. ”They came at us hard and looking back we had some really good chances we missed.
”Our guys battled, we just have to find a way to be better.”
Kapanen opened the scoring 5:37 into the game by jamming in a loose puck near the goal line.
Matthews doubled the lead when he picked up a Zach Hyman rebound in the slot and sent a wrist shot by Greiss at 13:39. Jake Gardiner started the play with a long outlet pass and picked up the other assist to extend his point streak to six games.
New York appeared to be gaining some traction before Marner skated into the slot and re-directed a Nazem Kadri pass to make it 3-0 at 10:32.
Tavares had a great chance to put his team on the board on the power play, but he juggled the puck at the side of an open net before getting off a weak shot that Andersen had no trouble with despite being on his back.
Dermott finished off a pass from William Nylander with 1:01 to play in the second. Matthews skated right to the Islanders net to pick up the puck as a keepsake for Dermott.
”He gets excited any time anybody scores a goal. You can hear him probably up in the press box,” Matthews said. ”Him scoring his first, he was pretty pumped up.”
Holl made it 5-0 with a wrist shot from an off angle that slipped through Greiss’ legs at 3:42. This time it was Hyman who collected the puck for his teammate.
”Obviously, good for those kids,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. ”You don’t get to score your first NHL goal very often – one time.”
NOTES: Toronto F Matt Martin was a healthy scratch for a third straight game. … Islanders F Andrew Ladd was activated from injured reserve and inserted into the lineup after missing nine games with an upper-body injury.
Islanders: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
Maple Leafs: Visit the New York Rangers on Thursday night.