It is hard not to recognize when a team is rolling and supremely confident, and that is the current state of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who took advantage of the Colorado Avalanche with backup Jonas Johansson in goal in an 8-3 pasting at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.
Auston Matthews continued his recent hot streak with a hat trick, William Nylander, Jason Spezza, Travis Dermott, John Tavares and Pierre Engvall scored for Toronto, and Jack Campbell made 28 saves in the Leafs fifth straight victory, moving them into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division and top spot in the NHL standings.
The Avs were forced to play Johansson after Darcy Kuemper suffered a upper body injury on Wednesday, and the Leafs seized on the opportunity, scoring three goals on 13 shots before allowing the Avs to get on the board with 1.3 seconds left in the first.
Colorado narrowed the gap to 3-2 midway through the middle frame on the first of two goals by former Leaf Nazem Kadri, but Toronto responded 47 seconds later with a goal from Dermott and another before the period was out from Tavares. Matthews added a pair in the third along with Engvall to turn the game into a rout, giving the Leafs their 15th win in 17 games.
“We had good energy, especially coming off of the west coast trip. Sometimes that jet leg can linger around and especially since we had some good success coming in with the right attitude and re-focusing.” Tavares said after the game. “I don’t think we loved our second period but I think a good sign that we withheld their push and got the lead back and then came out with a great effort in the third and increased it obviously with some great plays and some finishes throughout the lineup.”
Matthews has been able to shake off some of the concerns about scoring five-on-five. After starting with seven goals in 17 games (four on the power play), the Leafs center has scored six even-strength goals in the last four games, taking the team lead in goals away from Tavares.
Prior to the game, the Leafs placed winger Kirill Semyonov on waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. The 27-year-old was a point-per-game performer with the AHL Toronto Marlies before being called up last month, but played only three NHL games.
Indications are that Semyonov did not want to return to the American Hockey League and after clearing waivers on Thursday, it is expected he will sign with a KHL club. The Leafs also called up goalie Michael Hutchinson on an emergency basis prior to the game after Joseph Woll suffered a minor injury in practice on Tuesday.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game that there would be an update on Woll’s status on Friday, after the club’s day off and prior to leaving for Minnesota, where Toronto plays the Wild in the first of back-to-back games on Saturday.
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