TORONTO (AP) - Auston Matthews scored twice to raise his NHL-leading goal total to 38 as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Saturday for their fifth straight win.
Adam Brooks, Alex Galchenyuk and Joe Thornton also scored for Toronto. Mitch Marner had two assists and Jack Campbell stopped 26 shots for the North Division’s top team, which finished 5-3-1 against the Canucks this season.
Both of Matthews’ goals came off assists to Marner.
“It’s one thing to have some chemistry,” Toronto netminder Jack Campbell said of the dynamic duo. “It’s another to have the talent they have and to use it together for the (betterment) of the team. They both have the team in mind in all the plays they make.
“Coming back in the defensive zone, making great plays, and then it leads to those highlight-reel plays you see on the TV every night.”
Matthews’ 38 goals have come in just 47 games - he missed four with a wrist injury - and he’s found the back of the net 17 times in his last 17 contests.
“It’s unbelievable,” Leafs forward Alex Galchenyuk said of the No. 1 pick at the 2016 draft’s relentless pursuit of his first Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer. “A one-of-a-kind player.”
The 23-year-old’s second of the night was his league-best 12th game-winner, and moved him one back of Charlie Conacher’s franchise-record 13 in a season.
“He’s feeling it,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The chemistry between he and Mitch is obvious. He went through a tough stretch where he battled through injuries.
“He’s obviously feeling better and you’re seeing the results.”
Tanner Pearson scored for Vancouver. Thatcher Demko finished with 25 saves.
“A couple turnovers they were able to capitalize on and that was the difference,” Demko said. “But overall I thought it was a pretty good effort.”
After beating the Maple Leafs twice in Vancouver coming off their COVID-19 shutdown that saw 21 players and four staff members test positive, the Canucks have lost five of six - and four in a row in regulation.
Nick Foligno picked up an assist for Toronto in his first game at Scotiabank Arena since coming over in a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to last month’s trade deadline.
Sporting the same No. 71 his dad, Mike, wore when he played for the Maple Leafs in the early 1990s, the veteran forward sat out his new team’s 4-1 victory over Vancouver on Thursday along with Campbell, and defensemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, with an eye towards managing wear and tear ahead of the playoffs.
Tied 1-1 through 20 minutes, the Maple Leafs took their first lead 3:50 into the second period when Marner stole the puck from Alexander Edler behind Vancouver’s net and found Matthews in front to fire home his 38th of the campaign. The puck actually took a deflection off Edler and fooled Demko.
“He’s done an amazing job in the offensive zone getting himself open,” Marner said of Matthews. “He can shoot the puck from really wherever in his stance. It’s been a lot of fun to play with him, and it’s been a lot of fun to see him do what he’s doing this year.”
Pearson had a golden opportunity to double his tally after putting Vancouver up 1-0 in the first off a Matthews turnover in front of his own net, but Campbell was there with the glove.
Toronto stretched its advantage to 3-1 at 4:55 of the third when Brooks, who continues to solidify his spot on the fourth line alongside Thornton and Jason Spezza, tipped Justin Holl’s point shot by Demko for his fourth.
Galchenyuk got his fourth at 11:39 after Demko made the initial stop on William Nylander.
Thornton then buried his fifth into an empty net with two minutes left to seal it.
The Canucks, who registered just two shots in Thursday’s opening period, had a much better start and got on the board with 6:32 left in the first when Pearson fired his 10th through a screen off Campbell’s far post on a set play following an offensive zone faceoff.
The Leafs responded just 1:56 later when Foligno and Marner combined to find Matthews in front to score on a shot that went off J.T. Miller’s stick, the post and past Demko.
Vancouver announced before the game forward Jake Virtanen has been placed on leave following “concerning allegations” of sexual misconduct. The team released a statement saying it “does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously.”
The Canucks added they have “engaged external expertise” to assist in an independent investigation. Head coach Travis Green declined to answer any questions on the situation in his pre-game media availability, including if Virtanen is still with the team or when he learned of the allegations.
Canucks: Hosts Edmonton on Monday night in the opener of a stretch of four straight against the Oilers.
Maple Leafs: At Montreal on Monday night.
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