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

Ron Paley recently took advantage of some sun and warmth to ride his bike around Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows (Special to The News)
SHARE: Exploring Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

A map of CP’s proposed logistics park.
Pitt Meadows seeks end to ‘unfair taxation’ benefiting CP Rail

City lobbying other municipalities to ask B.C. government to end tax break

Dean and Shannon Joanisse.
Maple Ridge curling club weathers COVID-19

Golden Ears Winter Club closing soon, hopes for Labour Day bonspiel

Whonnock artist Gloria Stanley has placed rocks painted to look like eyes in the nooks of trees along trails in Maple Ridge and Mission. (Gloria Stanley/Special to The News)
Eyes adorn trails in Maple Ridge and Mission

Maple Ridge artist Gloria Stanley placed the first one in January

Steven Kotyk sent in this photo of the Golden Ears Bridge taken from Wharf Street in Maple Ridge. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Golden Ears Bridge makes for stunning backdrop in icy Maple Ridge photo

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

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

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

The family of injured Willoughby resident Ronald Gerald Jesso is hoping someone saw something that will help solve the mystery of how he came to be so badly hurt on the morning of Feb. 22. Jesso is still in hospital. (Jesso family/Special to Langley Advance Times)
An appeal to help solve the mystery of an injured Langley man

Family of Ronald Gerald Jesso asks witnesses to come forward

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Most Read