Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) picks up a tripping penalty on Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (91) during first period NHL action in Toronto on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) picks up a tripping penalty on Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (91) during first period NHL action in Toronto on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Spezza nets hat trick as Maple Leafs dismantle Canucks 7-3

Toronto veteran records eighth three-goal game in win over Vancouver

Jason Spezza recorded the eighth hat trick of his career — and first in nearly five years — as the host Toronto Maple Leafs dismantled the Vancouver Canucks 7-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews, with two, Mitch Marner, with a goal and a pair of assists, and John Tavares provided the rest of the offence for Toronto (8-2-1), which got 16 saves from Frederik Andersen.

William Nylander added three assists, while Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Travis Boyd chipped in with two each for the Leafs in the opener of a three-game set between the North Division rivals.

In the twilight of his career at age 37, but an important part of head coach Sheldon Keefe’s setup as a veteran presence, Spezza’s last three-goal performance came April 9, 2016, when he was with the Dallas Stars.

J.T. Miller, with a goal and an assist, Tanner Pearson and Bo Horvat replied for Vancouver (6-8-0). Thatcher Demko stopped 30 shots as the Canucks dropped their third straight in regulation this week.

The teams play eight more times in the NHL’s abbreviated 56-game season, including Saturday and Monday back at Scotiabank Arena.

Coming off a welcome four-day break following a 3-0-1 swing through Alberta, the Leafs opened the scoring when Matthews went end-to-end on a delayed Vancouver penalty before beating Demko between the pads for his seventh of the campaign — and sixth in as many games — at 2:56 of the first.

The Canucks, who came in on the heels of back-to-back losses to the Canadiens in Montreal following four straight wins, tied it up at 6:24 when Pearson scored his fourth as one of three Vancouver players allowed to bang away at the puck at the side of Andersen’s net.

Toronto’s top-ranked power play then went to work midway through the period, and Spezza blasted his second through a Zach Hyman screen past Demko for a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes.

The Leafs, who were down to five defencemen for the final two periods after Travis Dermott left with a leg injury, went up by two at 3:04 of the second when Matthews took a reverse feed from Mitch Marner behind Vancouver’s net that fooled Demko to bury his eighth. But the Canucks responded just 22 seconds later when Horvat fired his sixth off a cross-ice pass from Miller to make it 3-2.

Toronto restored its two-goal lead at 8:44 when Spezza received a slick saucer pass off the rush from Nic Petan, who made his 2020-21 debut, and fired upstairs on Demko for his first two-goal game since Jan. 16, 2018, with Dallas.

READ MORE: Habs trip Canucks 5-3 in Shea Weber’s 1,000th NHL game

READ MORE: Full Canucks coverage here

Playing their league-leading 14th game to open the season, the Canucks couldn’t keep up with the well-rested Leafs and went down 5-2 with 2:04 left in the second when Nylander found Tavares on Demko’s doorstep for the Toronto captain’s fifth.

Spezza completed his hat trick at 4:34 of the third by turning back the clock once again and stepping around Vancouver defenceman Alexander Edler off the rush before sweeping his fourth beyond Demko that, if not for COVID-19 protocols keeping fans away from Scotiabank Arena, would have seen fans litter the ice with hats.

The Canucks got one back on a power play at 8:14 when Miller beat Andersen with his third of the season, but Marner made it 7-3 with his sixth of the year at 11:37.

Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds and Vancouver’s Jordie Benn dropped the gloves in a spirited fight with three minutes left, setting the table for the rematch in less than 48 hours.

Thursday’s game featured changes to both the arena and players’ routines after the NHL revised its COVID-19 protocols with five U.S.-based teams currently sitting idle.

The glass behind the benches has been removed for better air flow, players and coaches aren’t allowed inside arenas until one hour 45 minutes before puck drop unless they’re receiving treatment for injuries, and all team meetings must be held virtually.

Notes: Three of Vancouver’s six wins have come against the rebuilding Ottawa Senators. … Leafs assistant coach Manny Malhotra was in Vancouver’s lineup the last time Canucks won in Toronto on Dec. 17, 2011.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

CanuckshockeyNHLToronto

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As part of Earth Week, Ucluelet Rotary Club member Ryan Wackett will be handing out free Clean Up Packages with grabber picker up tools at his shop Westcoast Connect from April 10 to 23. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet Rotary honours Earth Day with week long community clean up

“Let’s spring into action and clean up our beautiful communities!”

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour closures coming to Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song and performance

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Ucluelet locals Rachael, Caroline and Tom enjoy refreshments on a sunny Monday afternoon at a picnic table dining area set up by the District of Ucluelet to help residents and visitors support local businesses while staying outside. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Ucluelet chamber launches bingo contest to support local restaurants

Four Ucluelet Co-op shopping sprees are up for grabs in #Ukee2go competition.

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Most Read