The best goalkeepers will tell you they just need a support goal to win, and Andersen did not require anything else on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Center. Andersen stopped the 40 shots of the Florida Panthers to the goal, allowing the Leafs to record their eleventh victory in 13 games with a 1-0 victory. The shutout was Andersen’s fifth and the 15th in his career in the National Hockey League.
The 28-year-old also won for the thirtieth time in 51 games this season. At the last minute, many in the crowd of 18,961 were singing his name. The Leafs improved to 79 points. That put them behind the Boston Bruins, who were visiting Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
Boston has four games available in Leafs. The game marked the 19th anniversary of the first game of Leafs in the ACC, which will be held on February 20, 1999. The Leafs won that night, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in an extra time goal by Steve Thomas. With the deadline for changes in the NHL on Monday and with scouts from a total of 13 teams (including two from the Vancouver Canucks), Andersen again was excellent as the Leafs opened a three-game house.
Andersen made a point-blank save from Aleksander Barkov early in the first period, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Panthers defender Mike Matheson was serving a blunt penalty on Auston Matthews when Andersen stopped Colton Sceviour on a breakaway, the second-period opportunity after Morgan Rielly ran out of gas in a long shift.
Not long before that, Matthews lost a great opportunity to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead, beating Roberto Luongo but not the post with a delayed penalty. In the third, Panthers defender Aaron Ekblad entered the slot and fired a shot into the Leafs’ net, only to skate frustrated after Andersen quietly made a save from a glove. The Leafs took a 1-0 lead at 19:31 of the first period when James van Riemsdyk’s low shot from 25 feet came between Luongo’s legs and inside the net.
Luongo knew that he should have done salvation and reacted that way, looking up as they celebrated the Leaves. The goal was the 25th of the season of van Riemsdyk; only Matthews, with 27, has more for The Leafs. In other words, it is not hard to see why many believe that the Leafs will cling to van Riemsdyk on the change deadline, ignoring their status this summer as a free agent without restrictions.
As respected as general manager Lou Lamoriello, replacing the goals of van Riemsdyk in the case of changing it would be a great task. Tyler Bozak – in the lineup after losing the morning skate for maintenance – and Jake Gardiner helped in the goal, with Gardiner’s point 200th in his 469th NHL game. Gardiner has 33 assists, giving him the Leafs lead over Mitch Marner and William Nylander, who have 32 apiece. Patrick Marleau skated in his 1,555 NHL game, moving him into possession of the twelfth place in league history, one more than Jarome Iginla.
Marleau was almost able to score the game of the milestone with a goal, but instead shot wide when Nazem Kadri placed him in a 2-on-1 break in the second period. In the third, Luongo denied Marleau after Marner established it. Meanwhile, Thursday will mark a full month since Matt Martin’s last game.
The winger was a healthy scratch for the 13th consecutive game on Tuesday. If Lamoriello can change Martin, or if that is the wish of the DJ, it remains to be seen. Speculation continues that the Leafs are still interested in the Detroit Red Wings center, Luke Glendening, who would be acquired to play in the fourth line.
The idea remains that if the Wings separate from Glendening, they will insist on receiving a player from the list in return. Lamoriello gave himself a little more room for maneuver on Tuesday when he traded Eric Fehr for the San Jose Sharks, reducing the leaves to 48 contracts.