TORONTO (AP) — Joseph Woll knew he wasn’t getting the nod for Game 1 of the playoffs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs had clearly been leaning toward Ilya Samsonov late in the regular season, including a week of rest for the goaltender ahead of the Stanley Cup chase. Woll didn’t pout. He kept his head down and stayed ready.

“It was really obvious to me that he was going to just continue to work,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “And prepare as though he was playing.”

Woll got that chance Tuesday night, making 27 saves in his first start in more than two weeks to backstop Toronto’s 2-1 overtime victory that cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven, first-round series.

The calm, cool 25-year-old has given Toronto hope. Game 6 is Thursday night in Toronto (8 p.m. Eastern, TBS) and is the only game on the NHL slate.

“He’s unbelievable,” said Max Domi, who stepped into the Leafs’ No. 1 center spot with Auston Matthews unavailable. “He’s been sitting around for a while. Shows how mature he is and the presence that he brings when he steps in between the pipes.”

Boston blew a 3-1 lead against Florida in last year’s opening round and lost in seven games. The Leafs still have a mountain to climb against a team stinging from that ouster following a record-setting season.

“As difficult as this one was here (Tuesday), the next one’s going to be even harder,” Keefe said. “You got their attention.”

Toronto will look to secure its first playoff win at Scotiabank Arena since Game 2 of last year’s series against the Tampa Bay Lightning — a stretch of six straight losses.

“Haven’t been good on home ice,” Keefe said. “We’ve earned ourselves another opportunity to fix that.”

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said defenseman Brandon Carlo was good to go for Game 6 after missing the end of the Maple Leafs’ overtime victory. Andrew Peeke remains several weeks away from returning from injury.

Woll got a taste of NHL playoff action in last spring’s second round after Samsonov was injured against Florida. He made three appearances in that series, including a victory in Game 4 on the road before Toronto lost Game 5 in OT at home.

“That experience last year definitely helped,” said Woll, who made a huge third-period stop on former juniors teammate Trent Frederic before adding five more saves in Tuesday’s extra period. “I felt more comfortable coming into the situation. Each time you get a little more experience, and you learn from your mistakes.”

Woll started 2023-24 with an 8-5-1 record and a .916 save percentage before suffering a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for 12 weeks. He was 4-6-0 with an .890 save percentage after his return, but stayed focused on his routine.

Woll’s second career victory in an elimination game tied him with Gord McRae, Felix Potvin and John Ross Roach for the most by a rookie in franchise history.

“I feel pretty safe when he’s in net,” fellow rookie Matthew Knies said after scoring the game-winner. “I trust him a lot.”

Drafted by the Leafs in the third round of the 2016 draft — the same year they took Matthews with the No. 1 pick — Woll spent three seasons at Boston College before turning pro and signing with Toronto in 2019. The piano-playing goalie felt at home against Boston on a sheet of ice he knows well.

“I’m having the time of my life out there,” said Woll, who grew up in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. “A place I’ve played a lot of big games. To come in here and play the Bruins in an elimination game is pretty special.”

Next up: Another elimination game, this time at home.


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