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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grade 12 LSS student Catherine Sampson, Grade 8 LSS student Cianna Vincent, and LSS Aboriginal Education teacher Brenda Kohlruss led the LSS ceremony honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith Secondary ceremony honours missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

A small ceremony was held in the LSS foyer on the National Day of Awareness for MMIWG

Peter and Wayne Richmond and 49th Parallel Grocery won the award for Business Achievement 20+ Employees at the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd Black Tie Awards on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Submitted)
Ladysmith businesses recognized at Black Tie Awards

Black Tie Awards are given annually by the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce

Ladysmith’s Town Council met on May 4 and set a 0.52 percent increase for 2021 property taxes. (Town of Ladysmith/YouTube)
Town of Ladysmith adopts 0.52 percent tax increase for 2021

Mayor Aaron Stone praises the increase as among the ‘lowest in the province’

The CVRD introduces new app to contact residents during emergencies. (CVRD photo)
CVRD launches new app to spread information during emergencies

Cowichan Alert is a free app that can be downloaded onto smartphones, computers

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
Unlawful entry triggers heart condition for Ladysmith woman

An intoxicated man entered the Lavines’ apartment in the middle of the afternoon

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The courthouse in Nanaimo, B.C. (News Bulletin file)
Island man sentenced in Nanaimo after causing a dog unnecessary pain and suffering

Kiefer Tyson Giroux, 26, of Nanoose Bay, given six-month sentence

Following a one-year pause due to the pandemic, the Snowbirds were back in the skies over the Comox Valley Wednesday (May 5) morning. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Video: Snowbirds hold first training session in Comox Valley in more than 2 years

The team will conduct their training from May 4 to 26 in the area

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

Most Read