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

Brenda and Steve Smith with a photo of Derek Descoteau. It’s been five years since Derek was murdered in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved Chemainus murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

Fast action by Chemainus Fire Department crews prevented a motorhome fire from inflicting more serious damage on adjacent homes. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Fast action by Chemainus crews limits the damage from motorhome fire

Adjacent homes under threat from intense blaze

The former St. Joseph’s School converted to the St. Joseph’s Art Studios in 2019. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Former Chemainus St. Joseph’s School site sold to addictions recovery group

Diocese stresses the importance of a community outreach option in its decision

North Cowichan Coun. Christopher Justice said he believes the community will not be served well with the resignation of Chris Crowther from the OCP advisory council. (File photo)
Member of North Cowichan’s OCP advisory committee quits

Chris Crowther said OCP process devisive

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A game camera near the Klahoose reservation on Cortes Island caught this glimpse of a truck leaving the woodlot at around 2:30 on Sunday morning. Photo supplied by Klahoose First Nation
Indigenous cutblock vandalised on Cortes Island, anti-logging element suspected

Ribbons pulled down, gravel poured into gas tank at Klahoose First Nation site

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

The province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory Tuesday

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

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

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

The new wing at the Victoria International Airport opened up on Thursday (File contributed/YYJ)
Pandemic takes ‘hundreds of millions’ out of Victoria Airport, Vancouver Island economy

Airport authority head says passenger volumes down as much as 98 per cent

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Most Read