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If you don’t believe that certain players have the number over certain clubs or even other players, than the career stats of Calgary’s David Rittich should provide evidence to the contrary. The Flames goaltender came within 88 seconds of a second straight shutout against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but William Nylander tied the game late in regulation and scored the game winner in overtime in a 2-1 Leafs victory at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.
Michael Hutchinson made 21 saves for Toronto in the victory, who move to 15-4-2 atop the North Division, six points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers.
Toronto were frustrated by Rittich (3-1-1 career record, 2.16 GAA and .937 save percentage vs. the Leafs), who made 37 saves and held the Flames in the game, making a number of excellent stops. The Leafs fell behind 1-0 late in the third on an Andrew Mangiapane goal, but responded just under two minutes later as Nylander scored from his knees on a mad scramble around the Calgary net.
Nylander appears to be the only one who has the secret to scoring on Rittich, as he is the only Leaf to get the puck past the Flames netminder in his last three starts vs. Toronto. The struggling forward sped by Sean Monahan on his off-wing and flipped the puck under the crossbar for the game-winner 66 seconds into the extra frame.
“(I’m) extremely happy (for William).” Leafs forward Zach Hyman said after the game. “People get on him a lot. He’s an incredible player and I think that people don’t realize how much he cares and how much he wants to win. To see him be the hero tonight and get the last two goals there, it’s just great.”
The display of skill that Nylander showed in the game is what continues to be frustrating about him. At time, the 24-year-old has the ability to break games open, but his benching late in the third period on Saturday in Montreal is emblematic of the fact that he can be practically invisible for stretches.
That high skill level is the reason why GM Kyle Dubas has hesitated in dealing Nylander, but the only way that he remains in Toronto long term is if we see the guy who helped win the game on Wednesday and less of the disappearing act who wears #88.
Auston Matthews had a pair of assists on the night, but endured some pain blocking a shot off his ankle in the first period and hurting his wrist after a confrontation with Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson. The Leafs center did not take faceoffs late in the game and in overtime, but head coach Sheldon Keefe does not believe it will hinder him going forward.
“I think it’s something that can be treated. He’s been dealing with it for a long time now throughout this season. It hasn’t slowed him down.” Keefe said. “Obviously, today it was a factor, but we do have a couple days here before we play again. A full day off tomorrow and a practice and travel day and then we get out west. We’ll see how he is. They’ll continue to take care of him and monitor it. We don’t think it’s anything more at this point than what he’s been dealing with virtually all season.”
Toronto will embark on a five-game Western road trip, with three games in Edmonton and a pair in Vancouver.
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