Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby (49) eyes the loose puck against Toronto Maple Leafs forward Pierre Engvall (47) during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, April 29, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby (49) eyes the loose puck against Toronto Maple Leafs forward Pierre Engvall (47) during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, April 29, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Matthews scores No. 36, Leafs down struggling Vancouver Canucks 4-1

B.C. squad hasn’t won in Toronto since December 2011

Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 36th goal of the season as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the visiting Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday night.

The 23-year-old sniper hit the 60-point mark for a fifth straight season since getting picked first overall at the 2016 draft, and would be on pace 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 offence for Toronto (32-13-5). David Rittich, who got the start in place of Jack Campbell, made 15 saves to pick up his first victory since being acquired from the Calgary Flames ahead of the trade deadline.

Jason Spezza added an assist to pass Maurice (Rocket) Richard and sit alone in 99th spot on the league’s all-time scoring list with 967 points. The Canucks’ 16 shots were the fewest allowed by the Leafs this season, besting the 18 surrendered to Calgary on March 19.

J.T. Miller replied for Vancouver (19-22-3), which has lost four of its last five and remains 10 points back of the Montreal Canadiens for the North Division’s fourth and final playoff berth with four games in hand. Braden Holtby made 20 saves.

The Leafs, who have won four straight following a 0-3-2 run, improved to 4-3-1 against the Canucks in 2021. The teams will conclude their nine-game season series Saturday back 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 downed the Canadiens 4-1 in Montreal on Wednesday, which gave head coach Sheldon Keefe the option to rest a number of veterans and add some fresh legs to the lineup.

Campbell, workhorse defencemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, and forward Nick Foligno sat out, with Engvall, blue-liners Ben Hutton and Timothy Liljegren, and netminder Michael Hutchinson dressing.

Hutton debuted for the Leafs following his acquisition from the Anaheim Ducks prior to the deadline, while Liljegren suited up for the first time with the big club in 2021.

After beating Toronto two straight in Vancouver following their COVID-19 outbreak that saw 21 players and four coaches test positive, the Canucks came in having lost three of their last four in regulation to the Ottawa Senators, including Wednesday’s 6-3 loss in the nation’s capital.

READ MORE: Brady Tkachuk records Gordie Howe hat trick as Senators thump Canucks 6-3

The first period started with a bang as Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds fought Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler in response to the latter’s knee-on-knee hit on Zach Hyman in Vancouver on April 18. Edler was suspended two games for the incident, while Hyman was diagnosed with a sprained MCL that was expected to keep him out of the lineup at least two weeks.

The Leafs carried a decided edge in the opening 20 minutes, but just two of their first 16 shot attempts found the mark, including a T.J. Brodie effort off the crossbar.

Toronto finally found the range with 4:31 left in the period when Vancouver defenceman Quinn Hughes couldn’t get the puck out of his zone. John Tavares and Alex Galchenyuk quickly got the puck to Nylander, who made no mistake for his 16th goal of the season, and second in as many games.

After bagging his 35th of the season Wednesday, Matthews added another in his relentless pursuit of the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer when he took a pass from Marner on a 2-on-1 and one-timed a shot past Holtby just 51 seconds into the second.

Vancouver rookie Kole Lind — the 33rd pick the 2017 draft who made his NHL debut — collected his team’s third shot of the night shortly thereafter, but Engvall finished off a nice passing play with Spezza and Rasmus Sandin at 2:56 with his fourth to make it 3-0.

The Canucks finally showed some life as the period wore on, and Miller got one back with 4:24 left in the period when the puck ricocheted to the winger on a power play for him to make no mistake by burying his 11th on Rittich, who allowed five goals on 28 shots in an ugly loss to the 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 shut the door before doing the same on Tavares on another rush chance.

The Leafs rounded out the scoring with 54.9 seconds left in regulation when Alexander Kerfoot stole the puck from Holtby, who had been on the bench for an extra attacker, and fed Marner for his 18th.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

CanuckshockeyNHLToronto

Just Posted

Cruciferous vegetables have four petals on their flowers in the shape of a cross. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Yes, you can eat those bits of the plant too

These vegetables include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and kohlrabi

Can you dig it? Crofton In Bloom volunteers certainly can. From left: Trayci Lepp, Tony Lamley, Bonnie Lamley, Mary Patient and Jane Grueber. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Community pride grows from volunteer group’s beautification efforts

All ages contribute to Crofton In Bloom’s objectives

An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: This mother is grinning and bearing it

News broke the other day that, after months in hibernation, Grouse Mountain’s… Continue reading

An online cooking lesson with Ian Blom, the Red Seal Chef from the Ainslie Restaurant, is one of the items on auction in a fundraiser for the Duncan Curling Club and other causes. (Submitted photo)
Online action being held to assist Duncan Curling Club and other causes

Auction, run by the Duncan Rotary Club, closes May 22

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Most Read