Maple Leafs return home from perfect roadtrip to face Knights
TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs remained undefeated on the road Saturday when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-0, but they still must learn how to win consistently at home.
The Maple Leafs (9-5-0) will have another chance Tuesday night to take their road show home to the Scotiabank Arena, where they have struggled, when they play the Vegas Golden Knights (6-7-1).
The Maple Leafs are 6-0-0 on the road but have lost four of their past five home games, including a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Stars Thursday.
“I think there are some good things to take away (from Saturday) and we’re looking forward to getting home, it will be important to get some wins at home,” said Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, who scored twice Saturday.” We feel good about how things have been going on the road, but it’s time we start to assert ourselves in our own building.”
Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen stopped 31 shots to earn his first shutout this season and the 16th of his career. He is the first Maple Leafs goalie to earn a shutout against the Penguins since James Reimer on Feb. 1, 2012 and the first with a shutout in Pittsburgh since Mikael Tellqvist on March 19, 2006.
“I thought we came out flying, skating really well,” Andersen said. “We didn’t really allow them to have too much and we were talking about the first period being a key for us. … I thought we came out really good.”
The Golden Knights, who reached the Stanley Cup final in their first season in the NHL, have been hit by the franchise version of the sophomore jinx in the early part of this season.
They are, however, coming off a 3-0 home win over the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday that followed a team meeting called by coach Gerard Gallant on Friday.
“We have to start playing our game,” Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore said before the win over Carolina. “We’re not playing the style that we would like. That’s something we have to get back to. … It’s one of those things that we have to take a step back, kind of re-evaluate the way we’re playing and kind of our team. I think it’s good, and I think we have to get back on the same page.”
The Golden Knights had dropped four of five (1-3-1) before the meeting, including two in a row on the road — 4-1 to the Nashville Predators Tuesday and 5-3 to the St. Louis Blues Thursday.
Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots Saturday to earn his second shutout of the season and the 50th of his career.
Fleury said the meeting was a reminder of how the team must play. “(Gallant) didn’t go out there yelling at everybody,” Fleury said. “Just straightforward, just honest, just making sure we simplify our game. That’s how we’ve had success before. … We didn’t do anything fancy, but we played hard all game and it paid off.”
“We played our game (Saturday),” Gallant said. “We’re trying to play a 60-minute game, and we’re trying to compete and battle hard and get back to the things that make us successful and I think (Saturday) we did that.”
The game in Toronto is the opener of a four-game trip for the Golden Knights. Vegas left winger Max Pacioretty has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury and is expected to return during the trip, perhaps as early as Tuesday. He practiced with the team Monday in Toronto.
“You try to take it one day at a time,” he said after practice Monday “I felt good today. I’ll talk to the trainers, I’ll talk to the coaches and see where it goes.”
The Golden Knights will play the Montreal Canadiens Saturday in the third game of the trip. Pacioretty played 10 seasons with Montreal — including his final three there as captain — before being traded to Vegas in September.