ELMONT, N.Y. --The Toronto Maple Leafs were able to check a few problem areas off their list on Sunday.
They were 1-2-0 in the second game on back-to-back nights this season. Although not a terrible record on the surface, the lone win came in the same contest where they squandered a two-goal lead in the third period against the lowly Buffalo Sabres.
The Maple Leafs also wanted to have a better showing in front of rookie goaltender Joseph Woll, who picked up his first NHL win in the aforementioned game.
Mission accomplished on both fronts.
Woll made 20 saves to pick up his first NHL shutout in a 3-0 win on Long Island. His team played tight defensively around him, hoping to atone for the way they played in front of him just eight days prior.
"He made a few saves early that to me he looked confident, comfortable in the net," Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of his goaltender. "And I think that gave our team confidence as well."
The Maple Leafs came out of the gate and controlled possession at even strength. Faced with a 3-on-4 penalty kill early in the game, Toronto prevented the Islanders from getting to the net and defenseman Jake Muzzin found Mitch Marner on an outlet pass for a shorthanded goal at 3:31.
"It starts with Kampfer, too," Marner said of penalty killer David Kampf, who worked the puck loose to Muzzin. "That puck down low, having three guys kind of on his back, working extremely hard getting that puck back to our D-man with time."
Toronto's penalty kill improved to 88.7 percent this season and is ranked third in the NHL.
From there the Leafs continued to lock it down against an Islanders team that had six regulars out due to COVID-19 protocol.
Keefe made adjustments to three of his lines from Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Michael Bunting moved from the fourth line to the first line to skate with Marner and Auston Matthews.
In third period, Bunting assisted on Marner's second goal of the game.
"Bunts works extremely hard, he's a workhorse down low," Marner said of Bunting. "He's very good at protecting that puck as well. And he's going to find that little secret spot on the ice."
Another line change saw Nick Ritchie skate on a line with Ondrej Kase and Kampf. Keefe said that although he liked what Pierre Engvall had provided on the checking line, he looked to get Ritchie and Kase together as the two played on a line together while with the Anaheim Ducks.
Ritchie connected on a tic-tac-toe goal from Kampf to Kase that made it 2-0 Toronto in the third period.
The Islanders played without six regular players on the COVID-19 protocol. That allowed Keefe to feel confident in changing up the forward lines.
Despite his fifth goal of the season and his team holding a 3-0 lead, Kase sacrificed his body late in the game. He blocked a shot that forced him to go to the dressing room for a brief period of time.
It was all in an effort to have a better showing in front of Woll.
"It was unbelievable, especially when you see guys going down and blocking shots when it's 3-0 towards the end of the game," Woll said. "I think that's really special. I think that's a testament to how strong the culture is and how everyone really likes to support everyone."
When the horn sounded to end the game, Woll's teammates mobbed him in celebration. Wayne Simmonds made sure to pick up the game puck.
When evaluating what the Maple Leafs have in Woll, it was hard to judge based on his performance in Buffalo. Although he picked up the win, the numbers left something to be desired and the team did not play well in front of him.
Still, the Leafs saw something in Woll when they reviewed the video of the game and wanted to give him another shot. When he was needed, Woll made saves. He may only get one more start as the team has just one more set of back-to-backs before Petr Mrazek is projected to return from a groin injury.
But Woll has proven in a brief time that he's capable when called upon. For a team that has a poor past of developing goaltenders from within this system, that's a good thing.
And he has NHL history to boot, as he became the first goaltender in NHL history to record a shutout at the brand new UBS Arena.
"That's obviously pretty cool," Woll said. "It was just special to be able to play in a rink that cool with a crowd that really gets into it."