Auston Matthews’ Toronto Maple Leafs beat Colorado Avalanche – .

Auston Matthews’ Toronto Maple Leafs beat Colorado Avalanche – .

TORONTO – The Maple Leafs knew there were a lot of built-in excuses.
Just back from a road trip in California, the jet lag had not yet disappeared, the bodies were tired and it had been over a week and a half since the luxury of a day off – all with l one of the hottest teams in the NHL waiting on the bridge. .

None of this mattered.

Auston Matthews scored three times for the fourth career hat trick as the scorching Leafs beat the Colorado Avalanche 8-3 on Wednesday night.

Jean Tavares added a goal and two assists for Toronto (17-6-1), while Guillaume Nylander marked and set up another. Jack Campbell made 28 saves.

“Really good effort from everyone,” said Matthews. “Playing a really good team with a lot of really dangerous players, you know they’re going to get their boost and they are going to have their opportunities.

“The 20 guys over there did a really good job. “

Jason Spezza, Travis Dermott and Pierre Envall scored the other goals for the Leafs, who have won five in a row and are 15-2-0 in their last 17 games to take the lead in the NHL overall standings. Michael Bunting added three assists, while Mitch Marner and Alexandre Kerfoot with two each.

“Good preparation ahead, good state of mind,” Tavares said. “Good energy, especially after the trip to the west coast. “

Nazem Kari, with two, and Samuel Girard responded for Colorado (11-7-1). Jonas Johansson stopped 33 shots as the Avalanche lost for the second time in their last three games after winning six in a row.

“The energy in the room was that it would be easy to come up with an excuse right now,” Dermott said. “But tonight was a game where I think we could really show our character. ”

Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon, who had two assists, returned after missing eight games with a lower-body injury, while Kadri showed up to Scotiabank Arena as a visitor for the second time since his transfer to Mile High City in July 2019.

The Avalanche announced shortly before goalkeeper game 1 Darcy Kuemper (upper body injury) – named Wednesday starter by head coach Jared Bednar after morning practice – was unavailable.

“That wasn’t the problem,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog noted. “The problem is, we just didn’t play well enough. “

That did mean, however, that University of Toronto goaltender Jett Alexander had disguised himself as an emergency replacement for Johansson for the warm-ups. But the 22-year-old from Bloomfield, Ont., Stayed in the locker room until the third string. Justus Annunen arrived to witness the carnage up close in the second period.

“I don’t think it was an 8-3 game if we’re honest,” said Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe, whose team took a 3-0 lead first. “We played against a very good team that had some adversity.

“It makes the game very different from what it really was. “

After a trip that saw them sweep the New York Islanders and all three California teams, the Leafs took a 1-0 lead at 4:31 of the opening period when Tavares gently gave a pass to Nylander, who snatched his 10th goal of the season.

Toronto took a 2-0 lead at 7:57 when Spezza scored his fifth goal after the Colorado goalie was only able to get a part of Nick Ritchieis pulled.

The Leafs were up three at 2:24 pm when Matthews – minus his trademark mustache after a charity shave – took a feed from Marner and went between his legs and back against the grain to cover his 11th lead goal of the team, and fourth in as many games.

“He’s such a special player,” said Dermott. “When he’s hot like that, you just wanna put the puck… not even on his tape.”

“You put it on his lapel – he will make magic with it.” “

Colorado came on the board with 1.2 seconds left in the period when Girard landed a receiving shot against Campbell for his second.

Second NHL star in November after going 9-2-0 with a league-best .959 save percentage, the Leafs goaltender made several big saves early in the second period.

But the Avalanche eventually managed to make it 3-2 at 11:57 when Kadri – the league’s third star last month with 21 points in 10 games – swept his eighth against Campbell.

The Leafs recovered it just 47 seconds later when Dermott’s receiving shot beat Johansson upstairs for his first.

Campbell then made some superb saves on Logan O’Connor and Alex Newhook in quick succession before Tavares slipped his own rebound thanks to Johansson for his 11th to tie Matthews and reduce Toronto’s lead to three at 5-2.

But Matthews regained first place on the Leafs’ stats page when he picked up a Marner assist in a close game and edged out Johansson for his 12th just 46 seconds from third place.

Trophy winner Maurice (Rocket) Richard then fired his third of the evening at 8:41 a.m. on a shot that beat the Colorado goalie to continue the assault before Engvall and Kadri completed the score.

“Those first two goals, really good streaks by that line,” Keefe said of the Bunting-Matthews-Marner line. “Just incredible assists from Mitch Marner in both cases.

“On the third, (Matthews) gets it alone. That’s a pretty good shot… kiss the job. “

Campbell added, “Auston being Auston. Simply spectacular. “

Fans around the Scotiabank Arena chanted Matthews name after hats rained on the ice after his hat-trick.

“It definitely gives you chills down your spine,” he said. “It’s just a really special place to play.

“It’s fun when the crowd starts to move like that and you play as well as we did tonight. “

Notes: The 21 goals the Leafs have scored in their last four games equaled the team’s total in October. … Kadri’s second goal was the 200th of his career. … Bunting extended his point streak to five games (two goals, seven assists) to tie Detroit’s Moritz Seider for the longest time by a rookie this season. … The Avalanche visited Montreal on Thursday before heading to Ottawa on Saturday. … The Leafs play Minnesota on Saturday and Winnipeg on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 1, 2021.


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