Gregor scores winner, Nylander extends point streak in Leafs' victory over Canucks
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Noah Gregor (18) celebrates with teammates after scoring during second period NHL hockey action against the Vancouver Canucks, in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, November 11, 2023 10:02PM EST
TORONTO - Noah Gregor scored the winner and added an assist, William Nylander extended his franchise record for points to start a season to 15 games with a goal of his own and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Saturday.
Matthew Knies, Nick Robertson and David Kampf provided the rest of the offence for Toronto (8-5-2). Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves in a bounceback performance.
Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi and Bobby McMann each added two assists.
J.T. Miller and Pius Suter replied for Vancouver (10-3-1). Thatcher Demko stopped 17 shots for the Canucks, who saw their five-game winning streak come to an end.
Toronto, which beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 in a shootout Friday despite blowing a 4-1 lead, allowed fewer than four goals on home ice for the first time in 2023-24, and will now head to Sweden for the start of next week's NHL Global Series.
Vancouver dropped to 8-1-1 over its last 10.
Down 2-1 after 20 minutes, the Leafs tied it at 4:53 of the second period when Nylander banked a shot in off Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers for his 10th goal and 22nd point of the season after Demko robbed Bertuzzi moments earlier.
Toronto then pushed ahead for the first time when Gregor took a pass from Morgan Rielly and snapped is second on the Vancouver netminder at 14:22.
Robertson then stretched the Leafs' advantage to 4-2 at 4:56 when he chipped his second up and over Demko.
Kampf then put things to bed at 9:13 when he tipped a Gregor shot in for his first.
Criticized for the lack of a physical response after defenceman Timothy Liljegren was injured on a questionable sequence involving Boston Bruins captain Brad Marchand earlier this month, the Leafs had the fists flying early.
A little too early.
Toronto blueliner Mark Giordano - the oldest player in the NHL - dropped the gloves and went toe-to-toe with Vancouver centre Dakota Joshua following a hit on David Kampf, but received an extra two minute penalty for instigating along with a 10-minute misconduct.
The Canucks made the Leafs pay on the ensuing power play when Miller snapped his ninth goal of the season at 5:43 on Samsonov, who had been pulled in two of his last four starts and sporting an .855 save percentage in seven appearances before Saturday.
Toronto responded right after a Vancouver penalty expired 2:54 later when Knies banged home his fourth on a scramble.
Ian Cole then smoked Leafs winger Nick Robertson with another clean hit that resulted in Domi fighting the Canucks defenceman.
That led to another instigator penalty for the home side, which Vancouver capitalized on when Suter scored his fourth on a rebound at 15:48 as Toronto's porous penalty kill surrendered its 12th goal against in the last 11 games. Canucks defenceman Filip Hronek picked up an assist to stretch his point streak to nine contests.
The Canucks centre Elias Pettersson, who started the day first in the NHL with 24 points, spoke glowingly before the game about the equally hot start for Vancouver captain Quinn Hughes.
The 23-year-old led all defencemen with 20 points entering play.
“Where do you start?” Pettersson said after the morning skate. “He's been great all over the ice. Everyone knows he's good offensively, but this season people are really recognizing his defensive play.”
KLINGBERG RETURNS, REAVES SITS
John Klingberg returned to the Toronto lineup following a one-game absence for an unspecified injury. The defenceman has struggled since joining the Leafs in free agency, putting up just five assists and sitting a minus-8 through 13 games.
Ryan Reaves, meanwhile, sat out in favour of McMann, who was called up from the American Hockey League. The Leafs enforcer is an ugly minus-11.
Canucks forward Teddy Blueger (lower-body injury) skated Saturday morning and is close to making his debut after signing in free agency.
Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet said it's a delicate balance when a player is set to return to a team playing well.
“When you have those tough decisions, that's a good thing,” he said of having to sit a teammate down. “Sometimes a guy gets pulled (from the lineup) not necessarily for his play - it's that you want to get a guy in.
“That's the tough part of coaching.”
The Canucks visit the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, while the Leafs head to Sweden for a pair of games as part of the NHL Global Series beginning Friday in Stockholm against the Minnesota Wild.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2023.