Red-Hot Toronto Maple Leafs extend winning streak
By Neil Becker
In what was a possible Stanley Cup finals preview, the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs made a statement on Wednesday night by cruising to an 8-3 triumph against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Leafs who just returned from sweeping their three-game California road trip and have won 15 of 17, now sit two points ahead of the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals for first place in the overall standings.
Once again, playing a solid game in the Leafs net was Jack Campbell who was solid in a 28 save performance as he improved to 12-4-1 on the season with a 1.64 GAA. This beloved Leaf has no doubt played his way into being considered for Team USA at the upcoming Olympics.
Staying red hot was forward Austin Matthews as he contributed by scoring the fourth hattrick of his career. Matthews, who was a +2 on the evening, had a team-leading 8 shots in 17:48 of ice time.
Also coming up big was Leafs captain John Tavares who scored a goal and had a three-point game and linemate William Nylander who also scored in what was for him a two-point performance.
Heading into action, Toronto wasn’t facing Colorado’s steady number one goalie Darcy Kuemper who was nursing a lower-body injury.
Looking for that fast start, Toronto took 13 of their 41 shots in the first period and were rewarded with three goals starting with Nylander who scored 4:31 into regulation. Following up that opening goal was veteran Jason Spezza who notched his fifth at the 7:57 mark followed by Matthews who scored his first of three 14:24 into regulation for Leafs 3-0 lead.
Colorado would grab some momentum as grabbed some momentum as they defenceman Samuel Girard scored his second with two seconds left in the first to cut the Leafs lead to two goals.
Late in the second period, former Leafs forward Nazem Kadri his 8th and first of two 11:57 in to make it but not for long a close one-goal game.
Toronto regained full control and never looked back as they struck for consecutive goals from defenceman Travis Dermott with his first at the 12:44 mark followed less than four minutes later by Tavares with his 11th which improved the Leafs lead to 5-2 after 40 minutes of play.
Meanwhile, Matthews showed why he is considered an elite forward as he scored consecutive goals starting at the 44-second mark of the third and followed with his hattrick goal which came at 8:41 to give Toronto a five-goal margin.
Rounding out the Leafs scoring was forward Pierre Engvall who capitalized at 10:08 as Toronto would go on to earn that fifth straight win and remain the hottest team right now in the NHL.
4:31 William Nylander (10), John Tavares (13), Alex Kerfoot (11) Col 0 Tor 1
7:57 Jason Spezza (5), Nick Ritchie (5), Wayne Simmonds (6) Col 0 Tor 2
14:24 Austin Matthews (11), Mitch Marner (14), Michael Bunting (9) Col 0 Tor 3
19:58 Samuel Girardi (2), Nathan MacKinnon (10), Logan O’Connor (5) Col 1 Tor 3
11:57 Nazem Kadri (8), Jack Johnson (2), Valeri Nichushkin (4) Col 2 Tor 3
12:44 Travis Dermott (1), William Nylander (13), John Tavares (14) Col 2 Tor 4
16:28 John Tavares (11), Alex Kerfoot (12), T.J. Brodie (5), Col 2 Tor 5
0:44 Austin Matthews (12), Mitch Marner (15), Michael Bunting (10) Col 2 Tor 6
8:41 Austin Matthews (13), Jake Muzzin (7)
10:08 Pierre Engvall (3), Michael Bunting (11), Morgan Rielly (12), Col 2 Tor 8
16:36 PPG Nazem Kadri (9), Gabriel Landeskog (15), Nathan MacKinnon (11) Col 3 Tor 8