Matthews lifts Maple Leafs over Ducks 4-3 in shootout
TORONTO (AP) — Auston Matthews scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs got three power-play goals Wednesday night in a 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares all scored with the man advantage to give Toronto a two-goal lead in a mostly empty Scotiabank Arena because of COVID-19 restrictions.
But a late goal in the second period by Jakob Silfverberg and another from Ducks forward Vinni Lettieri when he redirected Kevin Shattenkirk’s point drive with 6:37 remaining in the third sent the game to overtime.
Sam Steel also was credited with a fluky goal for the Ducks, and John Gibson made 41 saves. Anaheim played without head coach Dallas Eakins, who was sidelined due to COVID-19. Assistant coach Mike Stothers ran the bench in his absence.
Jason Spezza also converted in the shootout and Jack Campbell earned his 20th victory as the Maple Leafs (26-10-3) won for the third time in five games. The Ducks (21-16-8) had won two in a row.
The three power-play goals gave the Maple Leafs 34 for the season. Only the Colorado Avalanche (37) and St. Louis Blues (35) had more entering play Wednesday.
With three days off since their last game, a 3-1 road win against the New York Islanders, Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe mixed up his lines against Anaheim.
He wanted more balance from his top three units, so Keefe placed Matthews, Marner and Nylander on separate lines.
“I don’t think it really bothers anyone,” Tavares said. “There is a lot of chemistry in this locker room, and I think everyone is ready to play with anyone at any time.
“So this is something that you can definitely work with.”
Matthews centered Michael Bunting and Ondrej Kase. Marner skated alongside Tavares and Ilya Mikheyev. Nylander was the right side with David Kampf and Alex Kerfoot.
“There were a lot of stoppages, so it became a little more challenging,” Keefe said. “We’re also trying to get our fourth line going at the same time.
“So we got three lines that we really moved around. You’re trying to get some traction and that group some chemistry.”
Toronto’s offense certainly clicked when all the big scorers hopped over the boards for man-advantage situations. The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 44-20 and had a whopping 75 shot attempts, with 14 misses and another 17 blocked.
The Ducks arrived on a roll after opening their five-game road swing with impressive victories against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins.
But the Maple Leafs had their way with Anaheim early on, outshooting the Ducks 31-11 through 40 minutes.
Anaheim did manage to snatch an early 1-0 lead with a fortunate goal. Maple Leafs fourth-liner Pierre Engvall attempted to sweep away the puck from the Toronto crease, but his clearing attempt bounced off Spezza and into the net.
Steel was given credit for the goal.
Gibson, who will be going to the NHL All-Star game next week with Anaheim forward Troy Terry, kept his team in front until the Maple Leafs struck for a pair of power-play goals in the first.
Gibson made a brilliant left pad stop on Nylander, who failed to knock in a rebound off the end boards midway through the period.
Marner scored for the fourth straight game with a bullet one-timer from 36 feet. Nylander converted Tavares’ pass from behind the net for a 2-1 lead.
The go-ahead goal was Nylander’s 17th of the season in his 39th game, matching his 17-goal output in 51 games last season.
Tavares put the Maple Leafs ahead 3-1 with a 5-on-3 goal late in the second, slamming in Marner’s pass.
But as the second penalty to Silfverberg expired, he jumped out of the box and scored on a 3-on-1 rush.
NOTES: Toronto was minus defenseman Jake Muzzin (concussion), while the Ducks played without defenseman Josh Manson (COVID-19) and forward Sonny Milano (upper body). ... In the first, the Maple Leafs lost defenseman Timothy Liljegren after he fell awkwardly and hit his head while trying to dump the puck into the Anaheim end. He was kept out of the game as a precaution. ... Matthews, Tavares, Marner and Nylander accounted for 25 of Toronto’s 44 shots on Gibson.
Ducks: Play at Montreal on Thursday night.
Maple Leafs: Play at Detroit on Saturday night.
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