Sports

Kerfoot grins and bears it after gaffe in win over Islanders

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Jack Campbell likes to tap a teammate with his stick after a save.

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We’re not sure what he wanted to do to Alex Kerfoot Sunday after a mis-direct saw the Leafs forward put it past his own goalkeepeer. They chatted at the next commercial time out and the Leafs proceeded to a 4-2 win over the Islanders on Sunday.

“I just said ‘sorry’,” a grinning Kerfoot told reporters. “You put a puck in your own net, it’s not a good feeling, especially a guy that competitive, who never wants to get beat. He probably watched the replay, and it was a tough one, but you can’t be expecting your own guy to shoot it in the back of the net.

“I was just letting him know I owe him one. Bad play on my part, an unfortunate bounce in front of the net, I was trying just to clear it quickly. Josh Bailey (credited with an unassisted goal) had a good stick on it, I’m not sure if it was my stick or a piece of the puck and it ricocheted. You just move on.”

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Kerfoot had a fine game otherwise as second-line centre with John Tavares replacing Auston Matthews, Kerfoot in on a key tying goal by Pierre Engvall to atone.

Campbell, meanwhile, got to 49 wins, passing Jacques Plante for 20th in franchise history.

WHAT’S MY LINE?

All that line juggling and defence pair square dancing that Sheldon Keefe engages in is not just for show.

The unexpected can arise, such as Sunday with top gun Auston Matthews a late scratch on a back-to-back with a minor injury. It was obvious Tavares would replace Matthews at centre, but this was a good chance to promote Ilya Mikheyev and give Kerfoot time back at centre with William Nylander and Engvall. Kerfoot pulled a stop-and-go to freeze the Isles and find Engvall for a tying goal.

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With the playoffs bound to require some role reversals, the coach also made changes Saturday when Ottawa grabbed a 3-1 lead and the Leafs were getting heavily pressed. He went back to a third line of Mikheyev, David Kampf and Engvall after Mikheyev had been promoted in Nylander’s spot as a second-line scorer.

“For a chunk of that second period, we were on our heels, not winning a lot of shifts that were ending in our zone and we had a lot of defensive faceoffs,” Keefe noted Saturday might. “But all season long when I’ve had (Engvall, Mikheyev and Kampf) there, they’ve done a terrific job of starting in our end, driving the puck down the ice and getting us on our front foot. That was the positive momentum we needed.”

On the blueline, the loss of Jake Muzzin for the two weekend games with an undisclosed injury, initially saw Justin Holl back with TJ Brodie. Since Mark Giordano joined the team, he has played some with his old Calgary partner Brodie, but mostly with young Timothy Liljegren. Sunday’s mid-game switch was Liljegren with Morgan Rielly, Lyabushkin moving in with Giordano.

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“What I’ve learned is our guys are able to adjust to different partners, both on practice days, re-group before a game and within the game, adapting to faceoff scenarios and different matchups,” Keefe said. “You have guys such as Brodie who can move around, play both sides. Giordano and Liljegren have done a good job together, Rielly and Lyabushkin … we’ve just found different things.”

Muzzin is expected back Tuesday against the Flyers.

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WORKING OVERTIME

Saturday in Ottawa was the Leafs’ sixth overtime win, one more than last season’s shortened schedule. Nylander has two of those extra-period winners, with two by Matthews, one by Mitch Marner and Giordano’s against the Sens, the first defenceman to score.

“You want to try and attack people if you can, tire out some people and see if you can get fresh people out there,” said Marner of Saturday’s nail biter going to the fourth minute. “We did a good job of that, changing responsibly with the puck in our hands. Great read (by Giordano), a great pass by Will, a great shot.”

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Accuracy is a must, as a miss from a wide angle with all three players down low is an invitation to an odd man rush the other way. The Sens almost cashed a couple of those before Giordano’s goal.

LOOSE LEAFS

There was a pre-game moment of silence Sunday for the passing of Isles’ legend Mike Bossy and a league ceremony for linesman Scott Cherrey’s 1,000th NHL game. The Drayton, Ont., native was a second-round draft pick of Washington in 1994 … Whether or not Michael Bunting gets many Calder Trophy votes, he’s still having quite a season for a first-time full fledged NHLer. His 62 points after Sunday were one more than Nylander and Mitch Marner had as rookies and seven shy of Matthews’s record … Zdeno Chara, at age 45, was making his 104th appearance against the Leafs, part of 1,674 games, seventh all-time … A diving Campbell glove save on Brock Nelson was no doubt appreciated by Jays new third baseman Matt Chapman, taking in his first Leafs game and getting scoreboard recognition.

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