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

From now to November, WildsafeBC will be educating the public through its various programs in the community of Bella Coola. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bears are back, and so is WildSafeBC

Rae will be working hard to reach out to community members in new and innovative ways

Bella Coola’s new WildSafeBC co-ordinator, Rae Kokeš, has spent the last 10 years in Africa working in lion, human, conflict, and is a wildlife biologist by trade. (Photo submitted)
From the savannas of Africa to the Bella Coola Valley

New Wildsafe BC coordinator ready to tackle wildlife conflict

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Stolen truck found broken down on Highway 97C, Williams Lake suspect arrested near Ashcroft

A security guard first noticed the truck, and thought it looked suspicious

This will be the second year the Bella Coola Valley Rodeo won’t take place due to the pandemic. (Michael Wigle file photo)
Bella Coola Valley Rodeo cancelled for 2021

Club organizers say next year’s rodeo will be bigger and better than ever

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

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

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read