The Maple Leafs continued to gear up for the playoffs, wrestling a physical matchup from the Washington Capitals and winning 7-3 Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.
But several Leafs — William Nylander, Michael Bunting, and Ilya Mikheyev — had big nights, with each scoring a pair of goals in a game where the Leafs outshot Washington 32-24.
Nylander reached 30 goals for the second time in his career and cracked the 70-point barrier for the first time, while Bunting broke a 17-game goalless streak in his 100th career game.
“The boys were giving it to me today (in the Leafs dressing room),” said Bunting, a 26-year-old rookie. “It was hard for me to get to 100 games, and hopefully there are 100 more. It took a lot to get to this point. I don’t take anything for granted,”
Mikheyev’s pair gave him 17 on the season, a tidy sum for a player who only played one game before Christmas because of injury.
“(Mikheyev), he just flies out there,” Bunting said, adding that Mikheyev’s forehand-backhand move on rushes to the net has paid off this season. “He’s an offensive threat … That move is working for him.”
Nylander’s spot — he has been on the third line with David Kampf and Pierre Engvall — was the result of struggling defensively while on the second line with John Tavares. The pair, part of the Leafs were outscored 45-36 when they were together at even strength before they were broken up in late March. Nylander has been more consistent since the switch and is giving an added scoring boost to the Leafs’ third line.
By the numbers
The win gave the Leafs 102 points on the season, the third highest points total in team history … Tavares had three assists to pass the 500 mark for his career. He is nine points shy of 900 … Morgan Rielly had a pair of assists in the season period to become the fifth Leafs defenceman, and the 16th Leafs, with 300 in his career … Defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin scored his first goal as a Leaf, and his second in 203 NHL games. “We love the Boosh,” Auston Matthews said. “He’s been an incredible addition to our team since he got here (at the trade deadline). He’s brought that physical element that we were lacking before. (The goal) was a big moment for him, and to have his wife and children here, made it even more special.”
Jack Campbell made a return to the Leafs’ net after missing two games with an undisclosed issue. He was beaten by Tom Wilson on a nice goal to end the second period, but came back with a terrific save on Wilson in the third.
Wilson came within an assist of a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal and a fight with Kyle Clifford. He also crashed the Leafs’ net in the first period, colliding dangerously with Campbell and knocking the mask off the netminder.
“I just reached for the puck, it was a hockey play,” Campbell said. “I met (Wilson) at the all-star game, he’s a nice guy, I don’t think it was intentional. And (Clifford) always has his teammates’ backs. He’s been doing that ever since I met him (as teammates in Los Angeles). It doesn’t matter which team he’s on, everyone loves him.”
Clifford had his best game with the Leafs this season. He has excellent speed, and answers the bell when a fight enters the script. He took a couple of punches from Wilson in their fight, then came back in the third period and slammed Wilson into the end boards. Wilson declined an offer to fight from Wayne Simmonds earlier in the third period.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION