DENVER (AP) — The Toronto Maple Leafs had one powerful surge against Colorado, and it came from their re-energized power play.
Nazem Kadri and Kasperi Kapanen scored power-play goals 22 seconds apart in the second period, Frederik Andersen stopped 34 shots and the Maple Leafs beat Colorado 5-2 on Tuesday night, extending the Avalanche’s winless streak to eight games.
Kapanen and Kadri each finished with two goals, while Auston Matthews added a goal and two assists.
Toronto broke things open in the second with three power-play goals over a 1:49 span to make it a 4-1 contest. It was tied for the fifth-fastest three-goal, power-play effort by the Maple Leafs in a regular-season game since 1933-34.
They had gone three straight contests without a power-play goal before Tuesday.
“It was great to see our guys be rewarded,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “Gives them a bit of swagger back and the power play was the difference in the game.”
Right after Matthews scored on a power play to make it 2-1, Avalanche forward J.T. Compher committed a costly high-stick penalty that resulted in a double minor. Kadri and Kapanen each cashed in to give Toronto some breathing room.
“We take a double-minor 200 feet away from our net. At this point, that’s ridiculous,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “You can’t do that, especially not against a team that definitely has one of the more dangerous power plays in the league.”
The Avalanche pulled Semyon Varlamov after giving up four goals on 17 shots. Philipp Grubauer allowed one goal in relief.
Ryan Graves and Alexander Kerfoot scored for a reeling Avalanche team that’s gone 0-5-3 over their last eight games. The team returned to the Pepsi Center after losing three straight overtime contests on the road. Home ice didn’t help.
Andersen and the defense bottled up Colorado most of the evening. The top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen were limited to a combined two shots — both by MacKinnon.
“Just eliminating time and space for those guys,” explained Andersen, whose team lost 6-3 to Colorado in Toronto on Jan. 14. “Their top line is where they get most of their production from. We want to eliminate that as much as possible.”
Matthews’ goal was the 99th of his NHL career. The Maple Leafs improved to 15-2-1 this season when Matthews — the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft — scores a goal.
Kapanen had a breakaway chance 28 seconds into the game, only to have his backhand attempted stopped by Varlamov’s right pad. Given another breakaway opportunity later in the first period, Kapanen wouldn’t miss again.
The right winger caught an elevated pass from Matthews with his right glove and, without missing a stride, quickly set the puck back down. Kapanen flipped a shot over Varlamov’s glove.
“I don’t know why I went with my backhand … I’m not a big backhand guy,” Kapanen said. “The second one — I had a little bit more time and I’ve been using that (move) this year. It went in this time, too.”
About that pass from Matthews — pure perfection.
“He sees the ice well and knows what to do,” Kapanen said.
Colorado tied it up with 4:44 remaining in the first when Andersen couldn’t track Graves’ liner from the blue line through traffic. It was about the only thing Andersen didn’t stop over the opening period. Andersen had a sequence where he stopped a flurry shots down low, even after being pushed into the goal.
Just the way things have lately gone for the Avalanche. Colorado was tied for the most points in the Western Conference after games on Dec. 7. Since then, the team has gone 5-16-6.
“Try to block out the doubts you have in your head,” Landeskog said. “We’re in way too good of a spot and way too much hockey left to be played to be sulking and hanging our heads.”
NOTES: Toronto C John Tavares had two assists. … Avalanche recalled F Tyson Jost from the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League. … D Ian Cole (upper body) remains out indefinitely. … This is Colorado’s longest winless streak since going 0-8-1 from Jan. 12 to Feb. 1, 2017.
Maple Leafs: At Vegas on Thursday for the fourth of a six-game trip.
Avalanche: At Winnipeg on Thursday before a three-game homestand.
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