Auston Matthews scores twice in return, Maple Leafs win
TORONTO (AP) — Auston Matthews had two goals and an assist in his return from a left shoulder injury that sidelined him a month and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the San Jose Sharks 5-3 on Wednesday night for their third straight victory.
John Tavares also scored twice, former San Jose star Patrick Marleau added a goal, Mitch Marner had three assists, and Andreas Johnsson finished with two assists to help Toronto improve to 18-8-0. Frederik Andersen made 37 saves to improve to 8-2-0 over his last 10 starts.
Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson scored for San Jose, Logan Couture had two assists and Aaron Dell made 24 saves.
Matthews sat out 14 games after taking a clean hit from Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba on Oct. 27. The 21-year-old center had 10 goals and six assists in the first seven games of the season, but was held off the scoresheet in three consecutive outings before getting hurt. He made an almost immediate impact against San Jose, taking a pass from Marner and finding Tavares at the edge of the crease on a power play at 3:38.
San Jose got that one back at 10:40 when Hertl banged the puck past Andersen after Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott could only partially block Kevin Labanc’s pass in front on a Sharks’ man advantage. The Maple Leafs regained the lead just 39 seconds later on another power play when Matthews ripped his 11th upstairs short-side on the helpless Dell.
Tavares made it 3-1 with 16.3 seconds left in the first when he finished off another pass from Marner, this time on an odd-man rush for his 17th goal of the season.
Toronto’s power play connected a third time in three successive chances, this time with the No. 2 unit, at 1:53 of the second when Marleau took a clever pass from Johnsson and fired upstairs on Dell for his sixth and Toronto’s third goal with the man advantage against the NHL’s top penalty killing unit. The 39-year-old Marleau, who played 19 seasons with the Sharks, scored against San Jose for the first time, giving him at least one goal against all 31 NHL franchises.
Pavelski got San Jose back within two when he scored his eighth on yet another power play, rifling a shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle that Andersen could only get a piece of with the inside of his pad at 4:18.
Matthews put the game out of reach for good with his 12th midway through the third when he tipped Johnsson’s shot past Dell’s glove.
Melker Karlsson got one back for San Jose, his second, with 1:58 left in regulation.
Notes: Matthews has scored in all four career games where he’s returned from an injury. Toronto was 9-5-0 without Matthews and is 10-3-0 overall in its last 13 games. ... Erik Karlsson, who was traded from Ottawa to San Jose in an eight-player blockbuster deal in September, will play his first game back in Canada’s capital on Saturday.
Sharks: At Ottawa on Saturday.
Maple Leafs: At Minnesota on Saturday night.
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