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

Crews respond to a structure fire in the 6000 block of Renton Road in Cherry Creek on Saturday, Feb. 27. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Workshop destroyed in Cherry Creek fire

Crews stayed on scene overnight fighting ‘stubborn’ blaze

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Tax error in 2020 means lower rate for residents in 2021

Alberni’s taxation for regional library accidently written down twice

Part of a new housing development proposal for the former Alberni District Secondary School site. (SCREENSHOT)
Housing gap widens in Port Alberni

Vancouver Island city suffers from ‘missing middle’ to housing density

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires Vancouver Island wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

The Port Alberni Train Station is located outside the entrance to Harbour Quay, on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Port Alberni gets funding to restore heritage train station

Historic train station needs seismic upgrades

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Most Read