Matthews scores 40th goal, Maple Leafs top Jets for 3rd straight win
Auston Matthews scored his 40th goal of the season in his 46th game for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets at Canada Life Centre on Saturday.
“I’m just trying to stay consistent, trying to work every night,” Matthews said. “I don’t think tonight was necessarily our best game as a line, but I just thought we stayed patient, just try to stay with it, stay with it, get an opportunity on the power play and make good on it.”
Matthews, who leads the NHL in goals, extended it to 3-1 at 15:28 of the third period on the power play for his 600th NHL point.
John Tavares and Ryan Reaves scored, and Ilya Samsonov made 24 saves for the Maple Leafs (25-14-8), who have won three straight and four of their past five. Morgan Rielly and Mitchell Marner each had two assists.
“[Samsonov] was tested a lot tonight,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “As much as I liked our game, I thought we gave up more than what we’ve been giving up here in recent games. He was really good here tonight. Not just battling, but looking confident.”
Dylan Samberg and Mason Appleton scored for the Jets (30-12-5), who have lost three in a row and four of their past six (2-3-1). Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves.
Winnipeg went 0-for-4 on the power play, and is 2-for-32 over its past nine games.
“Our power play needs a break like they got on their first [power-play goal],” Jets captain Adam Lowry said. “We’re getting pucks and they’re not going in for us. We’re getting some really good looks on it. We’ve got to score on those opportunities. And we’re just not doing it. The penalty killing has been outstanding for a while, but again, we had a terrible night on face-offs. It’s those areas [that cost us].”
Samberg gave Winnipeg a 1-0 lead at 4:13 of the first period on a shot from the point through traffic for his first goal of the season.
“It was good early,” Samberg said. “Then the game switched and they got to us, made some mistakes and [it] ended the way it did.”
Reaves tied it 1-1 at 19:11 with a redirection of Noah Gregor’s shot from above the circle.
“That one felt really good,” Reaves said of his fist goal since Nov. 24. “I do my best work in front of the net. … I’ve been working on my tips for a couple months now while I’ve been injured. That one paid off.”
Tyler Bertuzzi appeared to score 29 seconds later to put Toronto ahead, but the goal was immediately waved off for goaltender interference. Keefe challenged the call, but the play was upheld following video review.
Tavares gave the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead at 1:54 of the third period on the power play, redirecting Rielly’s point shot.
“Love the goal, obviously,” Keefe said. “First, he creates that possession for us by just pushing the pace up the ice and put some pressure on them. It creates a turnover and gets us on offense, and then he’s at the net which was a clear plan for us tonight, to be around that space.”
The goal was the first in 11 games for Tavares, and it ended his career-long nine-game point drought.
“You just stay with it and know it’s going to come,” Tavares said. “So, obviously, nice to get it at a crucial point in the game and to give us the lead. Certainly, with the way things have been for us with the power play up and down, and how the whole group responded to get two big ones in the third, obviously a good feeling.”
Simon Benoit extended it to 4-1 at 18:22 following Matthews’ goal by scoring into an empty net, his first goal of the season.
Tavares said: “I give our guys a lot of credit because [Winnipeg has] shown that they’re the best defensive team in the League and the success that they’ve had and how difficult they make it, to generate offense and earn space in front of their net and through the middle of the ice. And how patient and just how committed you’ve got to be to stay with it, and not get pushed away or get frustrated or let things kind of snowball and you try to do too much. You just try to earn your ice and get those opportunities over time and being patient with your game.”
Appleton jammed in a loose puck with 12 seconds remaining for the 4-2 final.
“The [NHL All-Star] break’s coming at a good time,” Bowness said. “The guys that are banged up need a rest. We need to get Mark (Scheifele) back, there’s no question about that.”
Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon left the game at 6:36 of the first period with an upper-body injury.
“He had an issue and he just couldn’t recover,” Bowness said of Dillon. “He just tweaked his body, his back, and it didn’t come around. So, I don’t think there was a hit or anything. He should be OK.”