Maple Leafs beat Predators 3-1 for 5th win in 6 games

Maple Leafs beat Predators 3-1 for 5th win in 6 games

NASHVILLE — Frederik Andersen proved he’s feeling just fine after missing nearly two games with an upper-body injury.

The Maple Leafs goaltender made 29 saves, helping Toronto beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 on Thursday night.

Andersen appeared to be hurt last weekend in a collision with Sabres forward William Carrier during a loss at Buffalo. Andersen missed the final two periods of that game and sat out Tuesday night’s win over Florida.

He couldn’t have looked much sharper against Nashville, and the Maple Leafs needed every save as the Predators outshot them 30-17.

“I don’t think anybody was too worried here about him,” Toronto rookie forward Auston Matthews said. “He’s been our guy all year. He’s been solid for us, and obviously tonight he was a brick wall out there. He made all of our big saves. He kept us in the game at times when they had momentum.”

Matthews and James van Riemsdyk each scored a power-play goal, with Matthews getting his seventh game-winner.

Connor Brown added an empty-net goal with 58.4 seconds left as the Maple Leafs started a three-game road trip by sweeping the season series with Nashville. They also won their second straight and fifth in six games to remain in third place in the Atlantic Division.

“We got the result that we wanted,” centre Mitchell Marner said.

Filip Forsberg scored his 30th of the season for Nashville. The Predators have lost two straight after a four-game winning streak.

Toronto is trying to hold off Boston, while the Predators needed a win to leapfrog St. Louis into third place in the Central Division. Nashville came in three points shy of its third straight playoff berth under coach Peter Laviolette.

“Our goal is to move forward and qualify for the playoffs, so we’re not there,” Laviolette said. “We’ve got work to do.”

It was the 1,000th game behind the bench for Laviolette, making him the 28th coach overall and just the second born in the United States to reach that mark in the NHL.

A quiet first period ended when Austin Watson took exception to a clean hit on teammate Mattias Ekholm and roughed Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin. That put the NHL’s second-best power play on the man advantage, and Toronto needed only 13 seconds to convert as van Riemsdyk redirected a shot by Nikita Zaitsev past goalie Pekka Rinne at 18:42 for a 1-0 lead.

The Predators had three power plays in the second — a period in which they have outscored opponents by the biggest margin in the NHL (95-63). Yet Andersen and the Maple Leafs didn’t give them any space.

The Maple Leafs got their second man advantage when Nashville captain Mike Fisher slashed Tyler Bozak, and Toronto scored again. This time, Matthews added to his Toronto rookie record with his 36th goal of the season off a wrister as he skated up the slot just inside the left circle with 1:17 left in the second.

Andersen preserved the shutout with several nice saves in the third, including one in front on Fisher. The goaltender also killed off one last penalty when Roman Polak went in the box for holding — Andersen needed Morgan Rielly’s help after the puck went off his arm and trickled near the goal line.

NOTES: Predators forward James Neal went to the locker room midway through the third period after taking a puck to the face in the neutral zone. … Among the top 30 in games coached, Laviolette came into his 1,000th game ranked seventh in points percentage at 57.8 per cent and one of 17 to win the Stanley Cup. … It was the 10th time this season Toronto scored multiple power-play goals. The Maple Leafs had just six such games last season. … Predators forward Craig Smith was scratched with an upper-body injury. Fisher returned after missing four games with an injury.

UP NEXT

Maple Leafs: At the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

Predators: Host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.

Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press

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