After their most impressive defensive effort of the season in which they shut down Boston’s red-hot offense, the Toronto Maple Leafs now head into Carolina to face off against the Hurricanes in the second half of a back-to-back with an early puck drop (5 p.m. EST, TSN4).

Auston Matthews struck twice last night — once at 5v5 and once on the power play — to lift the Leafs over the Bruins 2-1, but it may prove to be something of a Pyrrhic victory depending on the seriousness of the injury to Ilya Samsonov’s knee. An MRI will be taken later today to determine the extent of the problem.

The injury meant Erik Kallgren entered the game for the third period, when the Leafs clamped down defensively in impressive fashion to secure the two points against the top team in the Atlantic thus far. Toronto allowed just two scoring chances, 0.19 expected goals, and zero high-danger opportunities in the third period against the best offense they’ve matched up against to date.

The Leafs now have a quick turnaround as they travel to Carolina, where the Hurricanes had the night off last night but welcome the Leafs for their third game in four nights having played back-to-back on Thursday and Friday. With recent wins over the Lightning and Sabres, the Canes have now won four in a row and five of their past six.

While Carolina has gotten strong starts from the usual suspects in Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, it’s been the breakout of Martin Necas that has given them an added offensive boost to start the year. After a 40-point season a year ago, Necas has begun the new campaign with 17 points in the opening 11 games. 

Facing one of the more complete lineups in the league on the second half of a back-to-back with travel is no pleasant task, and a date with Vegas on Tuesday makes for a three-games-in-four-nights stretch that will really test the Maple Leafs‘ mettle. It’s made more challenging by the fact that the Leafs‘ goaltending situation has gone from bad to worse on the injury front. With Samsonov injured and Matt Murray still not ready to return, the crease belongs to Kallgren for now. 

Keith Petruzzelli will serve as the backup after signing an NHL deal late Saturday night. The Leafs have another back-to-back next weekend, so an NHL debut for the 23-year-old Petruzzelli — who is off to a 6-0-0 start with the Marlies after dominant junior and senior college seasons and an extremely strong ECHL season — could be in the cards as soon as later this week depending on Murray’s status.

While the goaltending is a major question mark, the saving grace for the Leafs is that Auston Matthews is back to scoring goals in bunches. After just one goal in the opening seven games, Matthews now has five in his past five, including goals in three straight. While Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting are both struggling to find the back of the net, the on-ice shooting percentage for the top line has begun to experience some positive regression while the John Tavares-led second line continues to consistently threaten. The Leafs also have received solid showings out of their new fourth line of ZAR – Kampf – Malgin in the past two games. Their blue line was also looking far more settled last night with Timothy Liljegren back in the fold.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge of facing the Canes in a back-to-back situation:

They are tough at any time, so we know what to expect in that sense. We played them three times last season. Certainly, they are a very tough team to play against in this building here. We felt that. I like how our team, over the course of the game we played in Carolina last season, responded. I thought it was a bit of a season-changing experience for us, frankly.

The nice thing about the back-to-back is that we just felt this yesterday. Boston is an admirable opponent as well. We had to respond well to that. We know what that feels like and what the physical demands are. We don’t have to dig too deeply to give them an example.

Keefe on the team’s improved defensive play in front of Erik Kallgren when he took over the crease for a spell last season:

I think it coincided with a time when our goaltending was really struggling. Injuries aside, pucks were going in our net at quite a high clip there. The players themselves were recognizing how important every shift was and every puck was.

Even prior to Sammy’s injury yesterday, our team was playing as good of a defensive game as you are going to find in the league, and certainly for how our season has gone. Our team is recognizing the urgency there.

We responded well. We were set up well to go out for that third period and do a really good job to put Kallgren in as good of a position as possible. That has to be your job no matter who your goalie is. That is the thing and what we are striving for.

When we were at our best last season, that is how we were playing.

Timothy Liljegren on his season debut last night:

I felt solid. It was not my best game, but solid. I think I need a couple more games to really get back into it. But I felt solid.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#89 Nick Robertson – #47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Calle Järnkrok
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #64 David Kämpf – #62 Denis Malgin

#78 TJ Brodie – #3 Justin Holl
#44 Morgan Rielly – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#55 Mark Giordano – #38 Rasmus Sandin

Starter: #50 Erik Källgren
#80 Keith Petruzzelli

Extras: Wayne Simmonds, Pontus Holmberg, Filip Král, Victor Mete
: Kyle Clifford, Jake Muzzin, Matt Murray, Jordie Benn, Ilya Samsonov

Carolina Hurricanes Projected Lines

#86 Teuvo Teravainen – #20 Sebastian Aho – #24 Seth Jarvis
#37 Andrei Svechnikov – #82 Jesperi Kotkaniemi – #88 Martin Necas
#48 Jordan Martinook – #11 Jordan Staal – #71 Jesper Fast
#23 Stefan Noesen – #26 Paul Stastny – #18 Derek Stepan

#74 Jaccob Slavin – #8 Brent Burns
#76 Brady Skjei – #22 Brett Pesce
#44 Calvin de Hann – #62 Jalen Chatfield

Starter: #31 Frederik Andersen
#32 Antti Raanta

Injured: Max Pacioretty, Ondrej Kase