Matthews leads Maple Leafs past Flames 4-3

CALGARY – Winless in four and down 2-0 in the first period on Thursday, Toronto was reeling until Auston Matthews took over and led the Maple Leafs to a comeback victory.

Matthews scored three times to bring his league-leading total up to 37 goals and added an assist as the Leafs scored four straight to win 4-3 over the red-hot Calgary Flames.

“With the slow start we had and him getting us going there in the first, and obviously the hatty, he played an unbelievable game and got us the win,” said William Nylander, who had two assists.

A big moment in the game came late in the first period when Calgary captain Mikael Backlund rang a shot off the goalpost on a breakaway that would have given the home side a 3-0 lead.

Ninety seconds later, Matthews pounced on a mishandled puck by defenceman Nick DeSimone inside the Flames blue line and ripped a shot into the top corner to pull the Leafs within one at 18:24.

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After Matthews tied it at 4:08 on a delayed penalty, the visitors surged in front at 7:44 with Marner’s 19th goal on a 4-on-3 power play.

Matthews’ third of the night at 13:39 of the second made it 4-2 and sent hundreds of hats raining onto the ice from the boisterous Leafs supporters.

“It’s pretty impressive,” said Leafs goaltender Martin Jones, asked about Matthews’ performance. “It always feels like even when we’re down two in the first we’re never really out of a game because we have those weapons that can dig us out of those holes.”

In the third period, the Leafs were the beneficiaries of a video replay reversal on what would have been the tying goal.

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Connor Zary appeared to make it 4-4 at 8:39, knocking in his own rebound, but Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe called a timeout and challenged for a missed glove-hand pass with extended time to review the play. The league determined that the puck glanced off the glove of Blake Coleman and went to Flames defenceman Jordan Oesterle.

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“Honestly, I thought they were looking at somebody else. One of those things where you didn’t even realize it happened,” said Coleman. “It’s a tough bounce. Obviously, it’s a completely different game there if it’s 4-4.”

While that might have tied it, it was the mistakes in the second period that allowed the game to get away.

“We were turning the puck over too much in the neutral zone. Making it hard on ourselves and feeding them,” said Backlund. “They’re a really highly skilled team, and if you feed them, they’re gonna eventually capitalize and that’s what they did.”

Andrew Mangiapane’s goal at 17:53 of the second got Calgary back to within one, but unlike recent games where Toronto has blown third-period leads, the Leafs were able to get this one to the finish line.

“I think it just gives us confidence to have that lead, hang onto it,” said Matthews. “Lots of really good things in the third period. I don’t think we sat back too much. I thought we tried to drive play on the other half of the ice as much as possible.”

Pontus Holmberg, with two assists, also had a multi-point game for Toronto (22-13-8).

Yegor Sharangovich and former Leafs forward Nazem Kadri were the other goal-scorers for Calgary (21-19-5). The Flames’ season-high four-game winning streak came to an end.

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Kadri extended his point streak to eight games (6 goals, 5 assists).

Getting the start for the Leafs, Jones made 24 stops to improve to 9-5-1.

Dan Vladar had 29 saves in a losing cause. His record fell to 7-6-2. No. 1 goaltender Jacob Markstrom (lower body) missed his second straight game.

The Flames struck first at 10:52 when Sharangovich made it seven goals in his last five games and 19 on the season with a deflection.

Kadri made it 2-0 five minutes later on a power play.


Calgary rookie RW Martin Pospisil was injured in a freak accident at 18:51 of the first period. After a Matthews shot from the faceoff dot in the Flames end, he and Pospisil went to turn opposite directions before their skates came together. Pospisil then stumbled and crashed heavily back and head-first into the corner boards. The 24-year-old, who has a long history of injuries, had to be helped off the ice.

“It didn’t look good, but from what I understand he’s doing OK,” Huska said. “I haven’t gotten an official update yet but hopefully it’s not something that will keep him out a long time.”


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Maple Leafs: Continue their four-game Western road trip on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.

Flames: Play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2024.

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