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Samsonov 'almost cried' when fans chanted during shutout

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

It was a night to remember for Ilya Samsonov.

The Maple Leafs goaltender turned in his best performance of the season, stopping all 32 shots he faced for a shutout in Toronto's 1-0 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday.

Amid a challenging year, Samsonov said he was nearly brought to tears while Leafs fans chanted his name.

"It's unbelievable," Samsonov said postgame. "I almost cried."

Samsonov kept the Leafs afloat during a rough first period in which they were outshot 16-4 and allowed the Jets to generate six high-danger scoring chances.

In the second period, he robbed the Jets on a 2-on-0 rush.

Samsonov attempted to give the Leafs' player-of-the-game belt to Auston Matthews, who scored the only goal in overtime, but the league's leading goal-scorer told the netminder to keep it.

"Unbelievable. I thought he was the best player on the ice for us by far," Matthews said postgame. "I can't say enough good things about him. The way he played tonight was incredible."

The Leafs placed Samsonov on waivers on New Year's Eve after a series of poor starts plummeted his save percentage to .862 on the season. He spent nearly two weeks in the minors, but instead of suiting up in the AHL, he worked with the organization's performance staff and Marlies goalie coach Hannu Toivonen.

In three starts since his recall, Samsonov is 2-1-0 with a .944 save percentage.

"He was terrific," head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "Just another building block for him where he just looks as confident as ever."

The Leafs and Jets will play the second leg of a home-and-home Saturday in Winnipeg.

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