NHL News

Rempe runs Lyubushkin into boards in Leafs’ win

TORONTO — Veteran defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin, traded from the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, took a big hit from New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe late in the second period Saturday night, and didn’t return to his first game this season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 29-year-old Russian, who was also with the club for 31 games and a playoff round in 2022, was run by Rempe into the side boards near Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov with 1:40 remaining in the second period of the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 shootout victory.

Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe was not pleased with the actions of Rempe, a bruiser called up from the American Hockey League last month who has been in several fights since his promotion.

“Head injury,” Keefe said of Lyubushkin’s status. “(Rempe) comes a long way, leaves his feet, hits him in the head, injury.”

The 6-foot-7 Rempe and Toronto’s Ryan Reaves, a former Ranger, dropped the gloves in a spirited tilt later in the period.

“I thought it was good,” Keefe said of the club’s response after the hit, which included Reaves’ brawl, “especially considering the guy knocks one of our guys out of the game.”

The Leafs have high hopes for Lyubushkin, and needed the Carolina Hurricanes to jump into the mix as a third team to make the deal happen.

Anaheim received Toronto’s 2025 third-round pick and retained 50% of Lyubushkin’s salary. Carolina received a 2024 sixth-round pick to retain 50% of Lyubushkin’s remaining salary. Hence, the Maple Leafs will have only $687,500 count against their salary cap for the veteran defenseman, leaving them with flexibility ahead of the March 8 NHL trade deadline.

For his career, Lyubushkin has 43 points in 335 games. The right-side defenseman is known for his physicality and can kill penalties as well.

As tempers between two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams, subsided in the third period and overtime, Max Domi scored the deciding goal in the shootout to secure the victory for the home team.

John Tavares, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander had goals in regulation for Toronto, which has won nine of its last 10 games. Samsonov stopped 32 shots.

Vincent Trocheck scored twice, and Alexis Lafreniere had a goal and two assists as the Rangers lost for just the second time in 13 games (11-1-1). Artemi Panarin also had two assists and Igor Shesterkin made 31 saves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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