The visiting Vancouver Canucks, who looked like a tired team playing a rested one on Thursday night in a 7-3 loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs, hope a day off makes a difference Saturday night as the three-game series continues.
The Canucks did not make a lot of mistakes, but they did not have the puck often as Jason Spezza notched his eighth career hat trick and Auston Matthews added two goals for the Maple Leafs.
“It definitely wasn’t our decision making,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “I thought we looked like a tired team playing against a fast team.”
The Canucks were playing their fourth game in six days and lost for the third straight time. The Maple Leafs were coming off a four-day layoff.
“We were a rested team playing against a very tired team that has had a very tough schedule,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “So frankly speaking, I expected us to be really good and make it hard on Vancouver. The challenge, of course here now, is to regroup and do it again.”
The Maple Leafs have defeated every team in the North Division this season and have eight wins.
“We’ve seen everybody, but I think the greatest challenge throughout this whole schedule is to beat the same team back-to-back,” Keefe said. “In this case we play Vancouver again (Saturday and Monday). We get the edge here, they regroup and we’ll have to get better. This year, the other team won’t feel good about (losing) the first game. So it’s important for us not to take our foot off the gas.”
The Canucks have two games left on a six-game trip that started last Saturday with a win over the Winnipeg Jets and continued with losses to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday and Tuesday.
“I’m not going to sugar-coat it, we weren’t good enough,” said Canucks captain Bo Horvat, who scored a goal on Thursday. “We need to come to play Saturday night. It’s not our goaltender’s fault. We’re giving up too many grade-A opportunities. We’ve got a lot of guys in the room who’ve played a lot of important hockey and know what it takes to win.”
The Canucks will have to contend with Matthews, who has scored in five straight games for a total of six goals, and Mitchell Marner, who has points in six straight games (two goals, eight assists) after getting a goal and two assists on Thursday.
The game on Thursday was the first for the Maple Leafs after taking seven of a possible eight points on an Alberta road trip. Toronto won twice at Calgary, then split a pair of games at Edmonton with an overtime loss.
Keefe promoted Wayne Simmonds to the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. Tavares scored his 350th NHL goal on Thursday.
Nic Petan played his first game in nearly 11 months Thursday after his promotion from the taxi squad and had an assist.
“There will come a time where we have to settle on the people we think are our absolute best lineup,” Keefe said. “We don’t think we’re quite there yet.”
The Maple Leafs will be without defenseman Travis Dermott, who left the game in the first period Thursday with an injured left leg.
“It looks like it’s pretty minor,” Keefe said. “It’s just a charley horse.”
Mikko Lehtonen will replace Dermott on Saturday.
–Field Level Media