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

High winds Friday made perfect conditions for kite-surfers near the White Rock Pier. (Aaron Hinks photo)
PHOTOS: Kite-surfers take flight near White Rock Pier

Aerial performance put on near iconic waterfront attraction

White Rock City Hall (Peace Arch News photo)
City of White Rock seeking input on draft financial plan

Plan includes tax rate increase of 4.28 per cent

B.C. researchers are asking for the public’s help in monitoring the bat population. (Cathy Koot photo)
Semiahmoo Peninsula residents asked to monitor bat activity

Researchers keeping eye on spread of white-nose syndrome

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

The Alzheimer Society of BC is hosting a number of webinars next month to help people prepare for financial and healthcare needs. (Contributed photo)
Alzheimer Society invites White Rock residents to series of educational webinars

Planning Ahead: Do it Now! webinar to be held March 10

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Lorne Ginther

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

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.

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

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

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for missing Chilliwack woman sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother Shaelene Bell

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

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read