Saturday night hockey meant East vs. West Coast as the Vancouver Canucks headed to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs to wrap up their four game road trip.
The Canucks had won two of the three games so far on their road trip and were looking to finish the trip with a winning record, after beating the Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.
Toronto was looking to make up for a very disappointing 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, a game in which Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe called the team “terrible from start to finish”.
The Leafs honoured Wayne Simmonds during the game as he skated in his 1,000th NHL game, spanning over 14 years and six different teams.
Things didn’t get much better for the Leafs in the opening period as J.T Miller whistled his 22nd goal of the season past Toronto net minder Jack Campbell, after some strong play from Miller and his linemate Tanner Pearson.
Only a minute later, Canucks forward Matthew Highmore took a slashing call which sent the Leafs top ranked power play on the ice against the worst ranked penalty kill in the league.
A miscue at centre ice from the Canucks allowed Leafs forwards on a 3 on 1, in which Marner dropped a pass for captain John Tavares, who sent a missile past Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko to snap his personal worst 14 game goalless streak, looking up to the heavens with a sigh of relief after.
Vancouver wouldn’t let the Leafs leave the period unscathed though however, as with just under 30 seconds to play in the first, Canucks defenceman Travis Hamonic sent a seeing eye shot through a crowd of sticks and bodies and off of T.J Brodie’s skate, leaving Campbell going the wrong way as Vancouver took the lead into the break.
Toronto would have its chances in the second period, but not before Brock Boeser batted home a loose puck in Campbell’s crease, giving Vancouver a PPG of their own and a two-goal lead.
For the rest of the period Toronto would turn their game up to 11.
Just a little over a minute later William Nylander found himself on a two-on-one with former Leafs second round pick Nicholas Robertson who wired home his first NHL (regular season) goal.
Robertson previously scored in the NHL playoffs back in 2020 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Entering the game on Saturday, Leafs superstar Auston Matthews trailed Leon Draisaitl for the league lead in goals scored by one goal. In the span of just three minutes, Matthews scored twice taking him to a league leading 39 goals on the season.
Toronto would head into the second intermission with their first lead of the hockey game, as they were up 4-3.
The Maple Leafs’ lead wouldn’t last longer than 63 seconds into the final frame as Tanner Pearson redirected another point shot, this time from Tyler Myers for his 12th goal of the season, and just five minutes later, Alex Chiasson whacked home the go ahead goal after the puck bounced around the Leafs defensive zone landing on the forwards stick for his sixth on the year.
Following Chiasson’s goal the Leafs started to turn back up to the form they had to end the second period with numerous chance after chance being turned aside by the young goalie Demko, especially point blank opportunities by Matthews and Marner with just over a minute to go in the game.
Toronto’s offence couldn’t find a way to sneak another one past Demko, as their hard fought efforts went up in smoke as Tyler Motte tucked home an empty netter in the dying embers of the period, as the Leafs drop the game 6-4.
Jack Campbell didn’t have a particularly strong night giving up five goals on 28 shots. This comes after his pretty poor performance against the Red Wings the prior Saturday in a 10-7 win.
John Tavares’ goal streak was finally snapped against the Canucks, as he and his linemates Nylander and Robertson all had pretty good games in their own right as moving Robertson on that line could be the spark plug that gets their line going again.
Both J.T Miller and Mitch Marner extended their point streaks, with Miller hitting nine straight games, and 17 points in that time, while Marner hit six games and 13 points in that stretch.
Vancouver will head back home after a successful road trip before they open up a seven game home stand, starting with the surprisingly red-hot Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. While Toronto looks to start turning their past few weeks of poor performances around with a trip to Columbus on Monday night.