TORONTO – Alex Chiasson scored the winner and Thatcher Demko made 34 saves as the Vancouver Canucks came back from a goal down in the third period to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 on Saturday night.
J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, Travis Hamonic and Tanner Pearson had goal and an assist each for Vancouver (28-23-6). Tyler Motte scored into an empty net. Bo Horvat chipped in with two assists.
Auston Matthews replied with his 38th and 39th goals of the season for Toronto (35-16-4) to retake the NHL lead. John Tavares, with a goal and an assist, and Nick Robertson also scored for the Leafs, who got 23 stops from Jack Campbell.
Toronto winger Wayne Simmonds played the 1,000th regular-season game of his career.
The Leafs led 4-3 after two periods, but Vancouver responded 63 seconds into the third when Pearson squeezed his 12th through Campbell on a tip.
Vancouver then took the lead at 6:55 on a broken play where Mitch Marner lost his stick in the Toronto zone. Horvat threw a puck in front that the Leafs winger tried to kick away with his skate, but it dropped for Chiasson to snap his sixth past Campbell.
Toronto’s top ranked power play got a chance to equalize midway through the period when Canucks defenceman Luke Schenn was whistled for delay of game, but Demko was there to deny William Nylander on the Leafs’ best opportunity.
Demko then denied Matthews on the doorstep with three minutes left in regulation and Marner with Campbell on the bench for an extra attacker before Motte iced it into an empty net with 19.7 seconds left.
The Canucks went up 3-1 at 4:12 of the second period on a power play when Boeser scored his 16th off the rebound of Miller’s initial shot.
Toronto responded 1:21 later when Robertson – elevated to the second line in his fourth game since being recalled from the AHL – took a pass from Nylander and fired his first regular-season goal past Demko.
The Vancouver goaltender, who made a career-high 51 saves in the Canucks’ 3-2 victory over Toronto on Feb. 12, then denied Simmonds on his milestone night with a stop at full stretch off a Jason Spezza feed.
Sitting third in the Atlantic Division, the Leafs kept pushing before an under-pressure Boeser threw an ill-advised clearing attempt up the middle that Matthews stunningly one-timed upstairs for his 38th to tie things up at 8:52.
The home side continued to flex its muscles before Matthews, who attempted the Michigan lacrosse-style move earlier in the period, scored his second of the night on another one-timer that went off Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes and past a stick-less Demko at 12:06 to make it 4-3 through 40 minutes.
Four points out of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot entering play, Vancouver opened the scoring at 7:48 of the first when Miller was quickest to a loose puck to bury his 22nd of the campaign.
Coming off Wednesday’s ugly 5-1 loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres in the first full home game with fans since mid-December after Ontario loosened COVID-19 restrictions, Toronto responded just over two minutes later when Tavares snapped a long goal drought.
The Leafs’ power play, which had gone seven contests without scoring, took advantage of a bad decision by Hamonic in the neutral zone that led to a 3-on-1. Marner fed Tavares, who fired his 18th – and first in 15 games – before looking skyward in relief.
Campbell, who came in with a sub-par .887 save percentage since Jan. 1, was making his first appearance since getting pulled after allowing five goals on 25 shots in Toronto’s wild 10-7 victory in Detroit over the Red Wings last Saturday.
The goaltender made a nice glove stop on Motte with four minutes left in the first to elicit a “Souuuuuup” chant from the Scotiabank Arena crowd, but was unlucky late in the period when Hamonic’s point shot went in off Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie for the Vancouver blue-liner’s second to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Notes: Miller extended his point streak to nine games. … Marner’s point streak now stands at six games. … Robertson scored his first professional goal for Toronto in the 2020 post-season bubble.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2022.
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