FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Ilya Samsonov could still play a role with his team on the brink of elimination.
The Maple Leafs goaltender left Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of their second-round series with an undisclosed injury after being accidentally taken out by teammate Luke Schenn.
The big defenceman crashed into Samsonov early in the second period trying to break up a play with Toronto up 1-0. The Russian netminder stayed down while being attended to by a trainer before heading to the locker room.
Rookie backup Joseph Woll was solid off the bench in relief with 22 saves, including a couple huge stops late in regulation to force OT before getting beaten by a Sam Reinhart wraparound that gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said Monday that Samsonov was “feeling better” and set to undergo further tests, including an MRI, to determine his status ahead of Wednesday’s must-win Game 4 at FLA Live Arena.
“We do have some time on our side,” Keefe told reporters on a video conference call. “We’ll use that time and get a better sense of where he’s at.”
Samsonov is 4-4 with a .898 save percentage and a 3.13 goals-against average in these playoffs for Toronto, which beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round for the organization’s first series victory since 2004.
Keefe said he has full belief in Woll.
“Wasn’t fazed when he went in the net (Sunday),” said the coach. “He backed that up with his performance. Our group’s got a lot of confidence in him. And more importantly, he looked really confident and comfortable.
“Didn’t look like the moment or the situation was anything too big for him.”
A third-round pick by the Leafs in 2016, Woll is 9-2-1 with a .918 save percentage and 2.51 GAA in 13 career regular-season appearances.
He also replaced Samsonov in the third period of Tampa’s 7-3 romp in Game 1 of the first round, allowing one goal on four shots.
The 24-year-old was 16-4-1 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.37 GAA with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League in 2022-23.
Keefe’s third option in goal is veteran Matt Murray, who has recovered from a concussion suffered in early April.
Game 5 of the Leafs-Panthers series, if necessary, would be Friday at Scotiabank Arena.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2023.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press