TAVARES GIVES BUDS 1-0 LEAD WITH GOAL MIDWAY THROUGH OPENING PERIOD
Toronto was aiming to end a two-game losing streak, and the Leafs got off to a tremendous start Saturday when centre John Tavares deftly redirected a shot from the point by blueliner Morgan Rielly and past Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom for Tavares' team-leading 27th goal of the season at the 8:54 mark of the first period:
Video: VAN@TOR: Tavares deflects shot past Markstrom
The goal stopped a modest two-game goalless streak for Tavares, who hasn't gone more than two games in a row without scoring since Nov. 1. And the assist was Rielly's 32nd of the year, putting him behind only winger Mitch Marner (who entered Saturday's game with 40 assists) for the team lead in that category.
MOORE'S FIRST CAREER NHL GOAL PUTS BUDS AHEAD BY TWO AFTER FIRST FRAME
The Leafs had one more shot than did Vancouver in the first 20 minutes of action (with Toronto getting 12 shots on Markstrom), but the Buds led by a pair of goals entering the second period thanks to the first career NHL goal by winger Trevor Moore at 14:30 of the first:
Video: VAN@TOR: Moore shows off speed to notch first goal
Moore used his speed to beat Canucks D-man Derrick Pouliot to the outside, then swooped in on Markstrom before beating him 5-hole for the most memorable goal of the 23-year-old's burgeoning career. The goal also gave Toronto a smidgen of breathing room as they entered the middle frame.
HUTCHINSON STRONG BETWEEN PIPES, POSTS SHUTOUT IN FIRST CAREER WIN WITH TORONTO
Toronto outshot Vancouver 13-8 in the second period and controlled a good chunk of possession time in the middle frame. And part of the reason no goals were scored in the period was because Leafs goaltender Michael Hutchinson - playing his second career game with the Buds after being acquired from Florida Dec. 29th - was solid between the pipes for his new team.
Hutchinson played his first game as a Leaf in Toronto's 4-3 loss to Minnesota Thursday, and he looked more comfortable Saturday, limiting the rebounds Vancouver saw and moving from post-to-post with confidence. The Canucks had the only two power plays of the first 40 minutes of action, and Hutchinson and the Leafs' other penalty killers had to be sharp to prevent the visitors from getting on the scoresheet.
And with another strong period in the third, Hutchinson posted his fourth career NHL shutout, stopping all 28 Vancouver shots he faced. It was a memorable night for the 28-year-old, born in Barrie, Ont., and a Leafs fan growing up.
MATTHEWS NETS 20TH OF YEAR, PUTS LEAFS IN COMMANDING LEAD EARLY IN THIRD
Leafs centre Auston Matthews was playing in his 27th game of the season, and though he hadn't scored in the previous five games, he'd still generated three points in that span. But Matthews got back on the scoresheet early in the third period, beating Markstrom on a wraparound play behind his net for Matthews' 20th goal of the year:
Video: VAN@TOR: Matthews extends lead with wraparound goal
That goal put the Leafs in the driver's seat, but Toronto wasn't done scoring. First, winger Andreas Johnsson got the puck from Matthews behind Vancouver's net, skated out to the left of Markstrom and fired the puck over him and into the net for his ninth goal of the year at 11:55 of the third:
Video: VAN@TOR: Johnsson finds twine with sharp-angle shot
Toronto's final goal of the game came at 14:49 of the third, when blueliner Igor Ozhiganov's shot from the left of Markstrom ricocheted in off Vancouver defenceman Erik Gudbranson for Ozhiganov's second goal of the year and a five-goal advantage:
Video: VAN@TOR: Ozhiganov gets favorable bounce off defender
That took any remaining air out of the Canucks' sails, and sent the Scotiabank Arena crowd home happy. The Leafs continue their home stand Monday when the Nashville Predators come to town. The Preds' results on the road (with its 10-8-3 record) is significantly worse than their home mark (15-7-0), so the Leafs have a great opportunity to start a new win streak.