Erik Kallgren shuts out Dallas Stars in first NHL start
By Neil Becker
Perhaps rookie Erik Kallgren is an answer to the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending issues.
Okay, maybe it’s a tad premature and not fair to anoint him as the savior, but so far, the 25- year-old has definitely opened eyes among Leafs fans and management.
Kallgren, who last spring inked a two-year two-way contract with the Leafs, made history on Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena when he made 35 saves in a 4-0 shutout win against the Dallas Stars.
What made this so historic was that Kallgren became only the fourth goalie to earn a shutout in their debut start as a Leaf. Prior to this start, Leafs Nation got their first look at him when back on March 10th at Scotiabank Arena, he relieved starter Petr Mrazek in the second period against the Arizona Coyotes and made a solid impression by stopping 11 of 12 shots in what turned out to be a 5-4 overtime loss.
Leafs starter Jack Campbell is sidelined for a couple of weeks with a rib injury which resulted in Kallgren getting called up from the Marlies and being presented with this opportunity.
The Leafs, who were still without an injured Jake Muzzin and had Wayne Simmonds sitting out, were also missing star forward Auston Matthews who was serving his first of a two-game suspension for his cross check to the head area of Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Dahlin at the Heritage Classic.
Having lost consecutive games to non-playoff teams, Toronto were led offensively against Dallas by captain John Tavares, along with fellow forward Mitch Marner and defenceman Morgan Rielly who all had two-point games.
Giving Toronto an early first-period momentum boost was blue-chip defenceman Rasmus Sandin who showcased his accurate shot. Positioned left of the Stars goal crease, Sandin received a pass from Marner and at the 7:22 mark, released an accurate backhand which went over the Stars goalie’s glove for his fifth goal this season.
Meanwhile, Kallgren received numerous ovations as he made a solid opening period impression by turning away 13 shots. Toronto would double their lead after one as captain John Tavares showed his hand-eye coordination by neatly deflecting a William Nylander blast for his 20th goal which came with under nine minutes remaining in the first.
Following a scoreless second period, the Leafs wasted no time in capitalizing on an early third-period power play as forward Ondrej Kase released a textbook one-timer from a pass by Rielly for his 13th goal which made it 3-0 less than a minute into the third.
The fourth and final Leaf goal was scored with less than a minute remaining into an open net by forward Ilya Mikheyev with his 11th in what was a crucial two points for the Leafs.
Toronto won’t have much time to rest as they next play on Thursday at Scotiabank Arena with a scheduled 7 p.m. opening face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes.