TORONTO -- Filip Forsberg had a natural hat trick and the Nashville Predators held off the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.
Forsberg, who scored two goals in Nashville's first four games this season and then went 17 straight games without scoring, took over the team lead in goals with 23, passing James Neal (21). It was his first regular-season NHL hat trick; he had one during Nashville's Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks last spring.
"It was great," Forsberg said. "It obviously put our team in a great spot at 3-0 and it was all we needed for tonight."
Forsberg, 21, has nine goals in his past nine games. He said his struggles at the start of the season are a distant memory.
"I thought I played pretty good at the start, but the puck didn't go in for me," Forsberg said. "I didn't think about it too much. The Nashville media was kind and didn't remind me about it too much. Obviously I like this streak better."
Video: NSH@TOR: Forsberg notches hat trick in the 2nd period
Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis said Forsberg really isn't doing things much differently than he did at the start of the season, but his luck has changed.
"Filip had a great game tonight; he was shooting the puck and made some great plays," Ellis said. "At the start it was a little bit of bad luck and maybe guys were keying on him too. We have a deeper lineup than we started with this season and maybe that has opened up more space for him. Tonight he got three chances and buried three chances."
Backup goaltender Carter Hutton made 25 saves for Nashville (29-21-11), which has has won three of its past four games and holds the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. It was the Predators' ninth consecutive road game with at least one point. Nashville established a franchise record by earning points in eight straight road games (6-0-2) with a 2-1 shootout win at the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
Toronto (20-28-10) has lost four in a row.
Video: NSH@TOR: Forsberg opens scoring in the 1st period
Forsberg gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 5:46 of the first period by scoring his fifth power-play goal of the season. With Toronto's Peter Holland off for elbowing, Mike Ribeiro sent Forsberg in alone with a nifty pass that slid between two Maple Leafs defenders, and he slipped a low shot past goaltender James Reimer. It was Nashville's first shot on goal.
Toronto came close to tying it 25 seconds into the second period when defenseman Jake Gardiner moved up on the play and drilled a shot off the post from the left circle. Forsberg then made it 2-0 at 3:40 when he took a pass from Craig Smith in front of the Maple Leafs net after a giveaway by Reimer, avoided the checking of defenseman Frank Corrado and took a wrist shot that got between the goaltender's pads.
Forsberg completed his natural hat trick 1:56 later when he flipped a rebound past Reimer after the goaltender had stopped defenseman Roman Josi's shot from the left point.
Video: NSH@TOR: Leivo puts Maple Leafs on the board in 3rd
Toronto was assessed a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 15:58, and the Predators appeared to take a 4-0 lead at 17:55 when Ellis beat Reimer with a shot from the right point. But Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock used his challenge, and a review showed that Nashville's Mike Fisher was offside on the play. The goal was waved off.
Josh Leivo scored for the Maple Leafs at 2:23 of the third period with a power-play goal while Josi was off for hooking. Leivo took a pass from Nazem Kadri in the high slot and beat Hutton with a wrist shot. It was Leivo's third goal in three games since being recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
Babcock said Leivo has a bright future if he improves in certain areas.
"The pace of his game has to improve, and he has to get a lot stronger," Babcock said. "He's got to commit to physical fitness in the offseason and get strong. As he does that he'll become a way better player because his hands and his mind are good. He can do a lot of work to make that happen."
Video: NSH@TOR: Rielly tallies a snap-shot goal in the 3rd
The Maple Leafs pulled Reimer for an extra skater at 17:26 and capitalized 11 seconds later when defenseman Morgan Rielly scored from the slot to make it a one-goal game.
The Maple Leafs were without their two leading scorers, Leo Komarov (suspended) and Tyler Bozak (upper-body injury), as well as forwards James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul and defenseman Matt Hunwick, each of whom is injured. Nashville's captain, defenseman Shea Weber, missed the game with a lower-body injury and is listed day-to-day.
The Maple Leafs traded defenseman Roman Polak and center Nick Spaling on Monday and replaced them with defenseman Stuart Percy and right wing Brendan Leipsic from the Marlies. Babcock was pleased with their efforts.
"I thought they were both good," Babcock said. "Leipsic has some quickness and he's not scared. He has the puck and makes plays in small areas."
Video: Forsberg's hat trick keys win