Hutchinson has 33 saves as Maple Leafs beat Islanders 3-0
TORONTO (AP) — Michael Hutchinson made the most of a rare start.
"It was one of those games where during the anthems I felt really calm and relaxed," Hutchinson said.
He got a boost of confidence when he saved a shot by Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield 22 seconds in.
"The game started off and their very first shot was in from the point with quite a bit of traffic and I was able to find the lane right away and make a pretty easy save on my feet,” Hutchinson said.
Starting goalie Frederik Andersen has been the backbone of Toronto's streak, with a 6-0-1 record and .909 save percentage, but Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe opted to start Hutchinson instead. The backup delivered with his first shutout since last Jan. 5 against Vancouver.
Keefe said before the game that if Hutchinson didn't get the start against the Islanders, there likely wouldn't be another chance to rest Andersen over a seven-game stretch before the NHL all-star break starting on Jan. 24.
It was Hutchinson's third-straight win, following a 4-1 victory over Detroit on Dec. 21 and a 5-4 overtime triumph at New Jersey on Dec. 27, both part of Toronto's point streak. His personal win streak stands in stark contrast to six losses to start the season with an .876 save percentage.
"It's kind of resetting and knowing you can't change anything that happened earlier in the season," Hutchinson said of his recent success. "I've been able to come to the rink positive every single day. ... Even when I'm not playing, enjoying the wins, enjoying the successes that other guys are having."
Keefe acknowledged it was a risk starting a backup goalie against as strong of a team like New York, but it was necessary to rest Andersen before the All-Star break later this month.
"We created a little extra adversity for our team today going into it, obviously, giving Freddie the day off and putting Hutch in," said Keefe, who informed Hutchinson of his decision on Friday. "That raises the awareness of the team a little bit and creates some extra challenge there in terms of not having Freddie — who has been so great for us — and then Hutch, who is trying to find his way.
"Clearly, he did today."
Semyon Varlamov had 20 saves for the Islanders, losers of five of their last seven (2-4-1).
After a scoreless first period, Hutchinson stepped up in the second, facing 16 shots but keeping New York off the scoreboard. He made a highlight-reel glove save on Josh Bailey in the ninth minute of the period, dropping into the butterfly but snagging the puck out of the air to keep the game scoreless.
Toronto got on the scoreboard with 6:35 left in the second when Kasperi Kapanen slid the puck through New York defenseman Noah Dobson's legs and then backhanded a pass to Engvall, who was skating into the slot and in a perfect position to shoot on Varlamov.
Matthews added to that lead 2:42 later, screening Varlamov as Mitch Marner sent in a long pass that the Maple Leafs’ center quickly rotated around to chip over the Islanders' goalie.
The Islanders continued to press — including a power play with 2:50 left in the second — but Hutchinson held firm.
Hutchinson's impressive start continued 1:29 into the third period, blocking a wrister by Anders Lee, kicking the rebound out with his pad and then smothering it with his glove.
Chants of "Hutchy" and "Let's go Hutch!" rained down on Hutchinson from the sections directly behind him in the lower bowl of Scotiabank Arena after he made another smart glove save on Noah Dobson with 11:43 left to play.
Less than three minutes later, Hutchinson robbed Mathew Barzal, falling on his backside but snagging a wrist shot out of the air to preserve his shutout.
"Are you frustrated? You are a little because you know you played a solid game," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "If you bury a couple of those chances you're leaving here with a point or a victory."
Hyman added an empty-net goal with 2:08 left to play. After defenseman Justin Holl dug the puck out of the boards behind Toronto's goal, he passed to Matthews who sent it over to Marner, who in turn found a streaking Hyman.
NOTES: Nylander ended a five-game point streak in which he had six goals and five assists. ... Injured Maple Leafs forwards Andreas Johnsson (leg) and Trevor Moore (shoulder) were both wearing non-contact sweaters during the morning skate. ... Equipment manager Brian Papineau was honored for his 2,500th game behind Toronto's bench. ... Pop superstar Justin Bieber was in attendance. ... The Islanders are 0 for 9 on the power play the last five games.
Islanders: Host Colorado on Monday night at Nassau Coliseum, where they have lost four straight.
Maple Leafs: Host Edmonton on Monday night in the middle game of a three-game homestand.