MOVEMBER REIGN: Matthews’ hat trick propels Maple Leafs past Avalanche

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Clean-shaven superstar records fourth three-goal game

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There’s no stopping the Maple Leafs.

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Not even the high-flying Colorado Avalanche, which arrived in Toronto for Wednesday’s match at Scotiabank Arena averaging four goals a game, the most in the National Hockey League.

A clean-shaven Auston Matthews recorded his fourth career hat trick as the Leafs won for the 15th time in 17 games, crushing the Avalanche 8-3.

“It was a really good effort from everybody throughout the lineup,” Matthews said. “Goaltending was unbelievable again. Guys just go out there and win their shifts and get things done.”

The Leafs, now 17-6-1, have 35 points. No other NHL team has as many. The eight goals were the most the Leafs have scored in a game since Dec. 23, 2019, when they beat Carolina 8-6.

And for the third time this season, Toronto has put together a five-game winning streak.

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The Leafs made short work of Avs goalie Jonas Johansson, who made the start after Darcy Kuemper suffered an upper-body injury earlier in the day.

Matthews scored his third goal at 8:41 of the third, using his patented snapshot to beat Johansson off the post on the short side. That completed his first hat trick since last April 10 against Ottawa.

As many in the crowd of 18,931 chanted “Auston Matthews!” Pierre Engvall scored Toronto’s eighth goal.

“It definitely gives you chills down your spine,” Matthews said of the chant. “It’s pretty special, it’s a special place to play.”

With the Leafs ahead 5-2 to start the third, Matthews, got his second of the night when he forechecked hard on defenceman Bowen Byram, got the puck from Mitch Marner and slipped it past Johansson.

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It wasn’t just Matthews who was dominant. The line of captain John Tavares between William Nylander and Alex Kerfoot was strong all night, combining for seven points.

Michael Bunting had three assists, one of six Leafs with multi-point games. Marner had two assists.

Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner is tripped up by Colorado Avalanche defenceman Bowen Byram during the second period. NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner is tripped up by Colorado Avalanche defenceman Bowen Byram during the second period. NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

“They’re a great hockey team,” Tavares said. “We had good preparation coming in, a good mindset. Liked the way we came out, especially coming off a West Coast trip. We withheld their push and came out with a great effort in the third.”

The Avs had some solid pressure on Jack Campbell — named the NHL’s second star for November — during the second period, but the home side, up 3-1 after one, increased its lead.

You would have expected Nazem Kadri, who entered the game fourth in NHL scoring, to get himself on the scoresheet. The former Leafs centre, who was named the NHL’s third star of November, did exactly that, reaching around defenceman Justin Holl to put a backhand past Campbell at 11:57. Kadri also scored in the third period.

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These Leafs don’t roll over and a three-goal lead was restored by the end of the period.

That didn’t come without the help of some big-time saves from Campbell. Stops on Nathan MacKinnon, Logan O’Connor and Alex Newhook stood out.

Travis Dermott scored for the first time in 35 games when his slapshot eluded Johansson at 12:44, less than a minute after the Kadri goal.

And it was 5-2 at 16:28 when Tavares slipped a rebound into the net as Kerfoot tied up the Avalanche defenceman.

The Leafs couldn’t have had a better first period. Well, until the final couple of seconds.

Toronto scored three goals in a span that came in at just under 10 minutes.

Nylander kicked open the floodgates at 4:31 when he beat Johansson high on the glove side.

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At 7:57, Jason Spezza — who minutes later would be given a standing ovation as his recent 1,200th NHL game was recognized — popped the puck into the net after a Nick Ritchie shot got through Johansson.

The prettiest Leafs goal of the period was supplied by Matthews at 14:24.

After accepting Marner’s feed, Matthews, left alone in front of the net, dipsy-doodled and moved to his forehand to score. It served as a reminder that Matthews’ bag of tricks is bottomless.

Colorado’s first goal came off the stick of defenceman Samuel Girard, who blasted a shot past Campbell at 19:58 of the first.

“I don’t think it was an 8-3 game,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We played against a team that had some adversity before the game with their goaltending and I felt we capitalized on that. I think that maybe makes the game feel a lot different than it really was.”

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