That four-game skid in early January seems as if it’s a long time ago.
Nazem Kadri also scored and James Reimer stopped 35 shots for Toronto.
Kessel has been one of the hottest players in the league over the past 12 days, and it came at the right time for his team.
“With Phil, if he continues to get chances, he’s got a history behind him and he knows how to score goals,” Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said.
The Maple Leafs are on their longest winning streak in eight years after losing four in a row. Toronto has climbed to fourth in the Eastern Conference during its win streak.
The previous time Toronto won six straight was Dec. 23, 2005-Jan. 2, 2006.
“There’s a lot more life in the room,” defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. “We’ve got a confidence in our dressing room that we feel good about ourselves.”
Kessel was playing for the University of Minnesota during Toronto’s previous six-game winning streak, but now he’s leading the way for the Leafs ahead of the Sochi Olympics next month, where he will be part of Team USA once again.
“We’re winning, that’s the most important thing,” Kessel said.
Rookie Nathan MacKinnon scored two goals for the Avalanche, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere had 19 saves in relief of Semyon Varlamov.
“We lost the game in the second period,” MacKinnon said. “Their goalie made some good saves for them. We’ve been playing well of late, but we can’t let this game get us down too much.”
Colorado generated more early chances but Toronto scored first. Phaneuf sent a puck from his own end off the backboards and Kessel, who got behind the Avalanche defense, put a soft shot past Varlamov 3:56 into the game.