Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after the Maple Leafs’ 5-4 win over the Dallas Stars which improved the team’s record to 26-15-8.

On the team overcoming a slow start:

I didn’t mind the first eight or nine minutes of the first period. I think we gave up one shot by the first TV timeout. I thought the game shifted from there.

They played really hard. We didn’t play through that well and couldn’t really establish anything. With the type of team that they have, once they get going like that, they are controlling the play. We needed to up our intensity, urgency, and the way we managed the puck.

With all of these things we talked about before the game, this was the type of game it was going to be. We had to feel our way through that a little bit.

It was only 2-1 after the first, so we just thought we had an opportunity to then embrace the type of game it was going to be the rest of the way. We knew it would be difficult, so we had to play a lot harder. We certainly did that, and the game flipped.

On the momentum-shifting penalty kill in the second period when Auston Matthews and William Nylander nearly scored:

I thought we were going pretty well before that as well, but it certainly was (a momentum builder). It would’ve been nice to score on one of them. That would’ve helped.

But the way the crowd responded and the guys got into it, we got some real life and some real pace. There was definitely energy in the building coming out of that.

Most importantly, we got the kill at that time, but certainly, there was some momentum generated there.

On the play of the bottom six:

Those guys contributed a lot tonight. It is a deep team on the other side. There are no easy matchups and no easy shifts against those guys. I thought the guys responded well when I put them in what I thought were some challenging spots. They managed it very well.

Reavo again was excellent. Holmberg was really, really good. It allowed us to trust them in some tough spots and give a little bit of a breather to the rest of the guys. It was tremendous to see.

On how John Tavares can translate his power-play production into his five-on-five game:

Just stay with it. I thought John was excellent at five-on-five. The play he made to create the Nylander goal in the third period is big-time stuff.

Let’s not get too picky here. The goals are the goals.  However they go in and whoever scores them, we just need enough goals to win hockey games. We got that tonight.

Certainly, through the second and third periods, I thought we defended really well. In the third period, we did a really good job. Obviously, we got caught sleeping and a guy got in behind us on the faceoff play. That can’t happen, but aside from that, it was a pretty tidy third period.

Once again, we had four or five grade-A scoring chances. Some of our best chances came in that first six or seven minutes in the third period when we could’ve extended our lead, which is something we have talked about in these games where we have given up leads. We haven’t been able to extend.

You kind of feel like you were letting them hang around again — and that is what happened — but what a response. Auston takes charge, and Mitch scores a big-time goal. John and that line followed it up. Obviously, it was huge.

On the team responding so well to the Stars’ 3-3 goal in the third period:

It was just about reminding the guys that we made a mistake and a guy got behind us for a penalty-shot goal, but we were playing a great period to that point. Just continue with it and stay with it.

We talked about patience and process being really important in this game. We were playing against a really good team that was going to require us to play 60 minutes.

They played last night, but despite the win, they gave up almost 50 shots. It was out of character for them as a team, and you would expect that they would respond with an effort more reflective of their team. That is what we got.

It required a lot of our team to stay with it and pull away.

On the Mason Marchment hit on Jake McCabe:

I see a vulnerable player who is targeted. I would have to think that is the type of hit you do not want to see in the game. He was bleeding everywhere. I am sure they are going to look at it.

On the explanation from the ref on the lack of a call on Marchment:

They thought it was a good hit.

On how McCabe handled the incident:

Jake is an absolute competitor. For him in that moment to not lose his cool, and not lose his cool for the remainder of the game… There were some confrontations between him and Marchment in the third period. Jake was hard on him and the team was hard on Marchment the rest of the way. I think Jake asked him for a fight. The fight didn’t happen, obviously.

Jake kept his cool and didn’t hurt the team. As we are learning or have learned, Jake is an absolute competitor and warrior. I loved how he handled that.

On whether he was aware that he has now passed Guy Boucher in total wins as an NHL head coach:

I was not, but I will tell him now for sure.