TORONTO (AP)William Nylander had a goal and two assists, Ilya Samsonov stopped 27 shots and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.
Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Rasmus Sandin each added a goal and an assist, and Conor Timmins also scored for the Maple Leafs, who won for the fifth time in eight games.
”I didn’t think the game had much life to it. Not what you come to expect in terms of what it’s like to play in the NHL,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. ”We’re happy to get through it with two points.”
Sam Lafferty and Philipp Kurashev each had a goal and an assist for Chicago. Petr Mrazek finished with 37 saves. The Blackhawks have lost three straight and are 2-5-1 in their last eight.
”Our guys fought to the end,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. ”There was no give-up.”
Leapfrogged by Tampa Bay for second in the Atlantic Division since last playing Saturday night in a4-3 loss to last-place Columbus, the Maple Leafs opened the scoring after just 9 seconds into the game when Nylander moved in on a breakaway and slid home his 30th goal of the season.
”It was Matty’s idea to draw that play up,” Nylander said of Matthews. ”Usually it’s not open . luckily (Blackhawks defenseman Jake McCabe) blew a tire there and gave me the space.”
The Swede, who has five points in two games, also nearly ran out of room.
”I think I waited too much,” Nylander said with a smile. ”Lucky that it slipped by his skate there on the post.”
The Blackhawks tied it on the game’s second shot 53 seconds later when Lafferty jumped on a turnover by Calle Jarnkrok and scored his ninth.
Sandin regained the lead for Toronto with his fourth on a shot that hit a Chicago stick and fooled Mrazek at 8:14.
”When we had some breakdowns or they responded . our response was better,” Tavares said. ”We were able to grab the game back and grab momentum.”
Alexander Kerfoot appeared to give Toronto a two-goal lead just 15 seconds later only to have it overturned when the Blackhawks challenge for offside.
However, Matthews did push the lead to 3-1 when he scored his 26th off a pass from Nylander with 8:39 left in the first.
Matthews, last season’s Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP and the first player in a decade to score 60 goals, was back after spraining his knee on Jan. 25 – missed five games over a three-week stretch thanks to the All-Star break and Toronto’s bye week.
”The adrenalin kicks in,” Matthews said. ”My energy faded a little bit throughout the game. … For the most part, I felt pretty good.”
Chicago got back within one 46 seconds into the second when Kurashev fired his eighth.
Tavares made it 4-2 as he took advantage of Mrazek’s miscue to score his 24th at 7:37 of the middle period.
Timmins, playing for the first time since Jan. 27, then scored his second on a one-timer for a 5-2 lead with 3:53 left in the middle period.
Nylander joined Matthews, Tavares and Phil Kessel as the only Maples players over the last 20 years to reach 30 goals in 55 games or fewer. The goal was the also fourth-fastest to start a game in franchise history behind only Charlie Conacher in 1932 (7 seconds), Mitch Marner in 2019 (7 seconds) and Ted Kennedy in 1953 (8 seconds).
Blackhawks: At Ottawa on Friday night to finish a four-game trip.
Maple Leafs: Host Montreal on Saturday night to finish a three-game homestand.
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