Ilya Samsonov and the Toronto Maple Leafs entered their first-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning as the favorite — and left Game 1 in shambles after being crushed by their Eastern Conference rivals on Tuesday night.
The Leafs lost 7-3 in front of the home crowd at Scotiabank Arena, and their Russian goaltender got completely honest about his play afterwards.
“I will be better. I played like s**t today,” Samsonov admitted, according to TSN’s Chris Johnston.
The Lightning jumped on Samsonov early and often, scoring six goals on the 26-year-old before he was pulled from the game at the start of the third.
They opened the scoring just 1:18 into the first period on a net-front goal from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, opening the floodgates on a completely forgettable night for the entire Leafs team.
Tampa would add two more goals in the opening frame before blowing the lid off this one in the second period with three consecutive power-play tallies to sink any hope of a Toronto comeback.
With the game out of reach in the third, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe turned to Joseph Woll for the third stanza.
Keefe said “it’s too early to know” which netminder will start in Game 2, not exactly instilling confidence in Samsonov.
Samsonov had a great regular season in Toronto, but that means nothing once the postseason rolls around. The Lightning leveraged their playoff experience, jumping on the Leafs early and often in the contest.
The Russian posted a 27-10-5 record with a .919 save percentage after signing a one-year deal in Ontario before the season. But his playoff pedigree tells a different story: he owns a 1-7 career record with a 3.45 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.
Losing Game 1 at home is always demoralizing, and turns Thursday night’s Game 2 into close to must-win territory if the Leafs hope to have any chance of winning their first playoff series since 2004.
One thing’s for sure: Ilya Samsonov is going to need to be a lot better.
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