TORONTO – Auston Matthews scored his 36th NHL-leading goal of the season when the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old sniper reached the 60-point mark for the fifth consecutive season since he was chosen first overall in the 2016 draft, and would be on track to score 64 goals in an 82-game season.
Mitch Marner with a goal and an assist, William Nylander and Pierre Engvall provided the rest of the offense for Toronto (32-13-5). David Rittich, who started in place of Jack Campbell, made 15 saves for his first win since being acquired from the Calgary Flames before the trade deadline.
Jason Spezza added an assist to pass Maurice (Rocket) Richard and sit just 99th on the league’s all-time scoring list with 967 points. The Canucks’ 16 shots were the fewest allowed by the Leafs this season, surpassing the 18 that surrendered to Calgary on March 19.
JT Miller responded for Vancouver (19-22-3), which has lost four of its last five and remains 10 points behind the Montreal Canadiens for fourth and final place in the North Division playoffs with four games in hand. . Braden Holtby made 20 saves.
The Leafs, who have won four straight after a 0-3-2 streak, improved to 4-3-1 against the Canucks in 2021. The teams will conclude their nine-game season series Saturday at Scotiabank Arena .
Vancouver hasn’t won in Toronto since December 2011, when Leafs assistant coach Manny Malhotra was in the Canucks’ lineup.
The Leafs became the first team in the North to secure a playoff spot when they defeated the Canadiens 4-1 in Montreal on Wednesday, giving head coach Sheldon Keefe the option to rest several veterans and add some cool legs to the lineup.
Campbell, defenders Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin and forward Nick Foligno sat outside, with Engvall, blue line players Ben Hutton and Timothy Liljegren, and goalkeeper Michael Hutchinson dressing.
Hutton made his debut with the Leafs following their acquisition from the Anaheim Ducks before the deadline, while Liljegren first dressed with the big club in 2021.
After beating Toronto two in a row in Vancouver following their COVID-19 outbreak in which 21 players and four coaches tested positive, the Canucks entered after losing three of their last four in regulation to the Ottawa Senators, including Wednesday’s 6-3 defeat in the national championship. capital.
The first period started off with a bang when Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds took on Canucks defender Alexander Edler in response to the latter’s knee-over-knee punch to Zach Hyman in Vancouver on April 18. Edler was suspended two games for the incident, while Hyman was diagnosed. with an MCL sprain that was expected to keep him out of the lineup for at least two weeks.
The Leafs led a decided lead in the first 20 minutes, but only two of their first 16 shot attempts hit home, including a shot from TJ Brodie off the crossbar.
Toronto finally found range with 4:31 remaining in the period in which Vancouver defender Quinn Hughes couldn’t get the puck out of his zone. John Tavares and Alex Galchenyuk quickly hit Nylander, who made no mistake in his 16th goal of the season, and second in as many games.
After bagging his 35th of the season on Wednesday, Matthews added another in his relentless pursuit of the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top scorer when he took a pass from Marner on a 2-on-1 and a one-shot shot outscored him. Holtby. 51 seconds in the second.
Vancouver rookie Kole Lind, the 33rd pick in the 2017 draft who made his NHL debut, received his team’s third shot of the night shortly after, but Engvall finished off a good pass play with Spezza and Rasmus Sandin at 2:56 with his room to do. it is 3-0.
The Canucks finally showed some life as the period progressed, and Miller recovered a ball with 4:24 left in the period when the puck bounced to the end on a power play so he didn’t make any mistakes burying his eleventh. on Rittich, who allowed five goals on 28 shots in an ugly loss to Vancouver on April 20 in his last appearance.
Matthews attempted a spin-o-rama move early in the third looking to add to his goal total, but Holtby was there to close the door before doing the same to Tavares on another quick shot.
The Leafs completed the score with 54.9 seconds remaining in regulation time when Alexander Kerfoot stole the puck from Holtby, who had been on the bench for an extra hitter, and fed Marner for his 18th.