Tavares scores twice, Maple Leafs edge Predators 3-2
Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) is congratulated after scoring against the Nashville Predators during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 26, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Jim Diamond, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, March 26, 2023 10:32PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, March 26, 2023 10:32PM EDT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — John Tavares scored two goals and added an assist, Joseph Woll made 22 saves and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Nashville Predators 3-2 on Sunday night.
Alexander Kerfoot also scored for Toronto, which has won two of its last three. The Maple Leafs are seven points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division with Toronto having one game in hand. Auston Matthews had two assists.
“I thought we were good again,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I’d like to have scored more with the chances that we had to extend our lead and make it a little more comfortable there. You leave them within striking distance and that’s why they have a chance to get a push there in the third.”
Tyson Barrie had a goal and an assist, Cody Glass also scored and Kevin Lankinen made 31 saves for Nashville, which lost back-to-back home games over the weekend. The Predators remain five points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the Western Conference’s second wild-card berth, with Nashville having played two fewer games.
“I really liked how our guys played today,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “I thought we came out fast, played a faster game. Competitive level was where we needed to be on the puck.”
Tavares scored the game’s first goal at 18:06 of the opening period. With the Maple Leafs on a power play, Tavares beat Lankinen from the low slot after a slick tick-tack-toe passing sequence from Matthews and Mitchell Marner.
“I’m just trying to focus on playing well and executing through all three zones,” Tavares said. “I trust my ability and my instincts to make plays.”
Kerfoot doubled the Toronto lead at 1:02 of the second with a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat Lankinen high to the far side.
Glass spoiled Woll’s shutout bid at 12:37 of the third with a power-play goal, but Tavares scored his second on the power play at 15:09 to restore the two-goal lead. Tavares leads the Maple Leafs in power-play goals with 15.
“It was awesome,” Woll said. “Every chance I get is a great experience. I’m always grateful when I get to hop in the net with the Leafs. It was awesome to get the win as well.”
Barrie scored at 18:18 with Lankinen pulled for an extra attacker, but the Predators could not find the equalizer.
POWER-PLAY WOES END
Nashville finished 1-for-4 on the power play Sunday. The Predators had failed to score with the man advantage in the previous seven games. After coming up empty in their first three power-play opportunities Sunday, Glass’s power-play goal snapped an 0-for-20 stretch.
Predators forward Matt Duchene left early in the second period after being struck in the left hand with a slap shot off the stick of teammate Dante Fabbro. Duchene immediately skated off the ice, removing his glove from the hand while doing so.
Following the game, Hynes said Duchene was week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Nashville has been besieged with injuries recently. The Predators are already without the services of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Roman Josi and Alexandre Carrier.
500 FOR MARNER
Marner played his 500th career NHL game. His assist on Tavares’ first-period power-play goal extended his point-scoring streak to 10 games, the fourth such streak of his career.
Predators: Visit the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
Maple Leafs: Host the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.