The streaking Chicago Blackhawks put the brakes on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff push.
Jonathan Toews scored a goal to extend his points streak to nine games and the Blackhawks won their eighth straight game, beating the Maple Leafs 5-3 on Saturday night.
Marian Hossa, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell also scored for Chicago. The defending Stanley Cup champions took a 3-0 lead in the first period, a night after a 5-2 home victory over Carolina.
“We have an expectation to win and get the two points and I think it’s showing in the way we’re starting games,” Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith said.
Added coach Joel Quenneville: “I thought we had a great start. It’s nice to see all four lines, everybody contributing.”
Joffrey Lupul, Joey Crabb and Luke Schenn replied for Toronto, 10-3-4 since the all-star break. The Maple Leafs had earned at least a point in nine straight games. Coming off a victory over Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia, Toronto remained four points behind eighth-place Carolina.
“It’s good experience for our team to play one of the better teams in the league right now and see what we have to do to get better,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “It would be awful idiotic to say that we were going to win every game the rest of the way. So I have no problem with the game tonight. We’ll move on to the next one, learn our lessons and get better.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Vancouver 3 Los Angeles 1; Montreal 4 Tampa Bay 2; Edmonton 5 Colorado 1; Buffalo 5 Philadelphia 3; Pittsburgh 3 Boston 2 (OT); New York islanders 5 St. Louis 2; Phoenix 5 Detroit 4 (SO); Atlanta 4 Florida 3 (OT); and Dallas 3 San Jose 2.
At Toronto, the fans were amped up at Air Canada Centre—at least for the opening minute. Shortly after, Maple Leafs defenceman Carl Gunnarsson turned the puck over to Marian Hossa, who beat James Reimer for his 18th of the season at 1:10.
“We had a horrific giveaway right at the wrong time,” Wilson said. “That energized them and deflated us a bit. They took advantage like good teams do.”
The Blackhawks didn’t let up, extending their lead to 3-0 when Frolik finished off a 2-on-1 at 4:13 and Toews converted a pass from Patrick Kane with 3:23 left. The Chicago captain has eight goals and 15 points during his nine-game run.
“We were quick to find out why they’re the Stanley Cup champions,” Maple Leafs forward Tim Brent said. “They capitalized on every mistake we made. We just kind of got away from what we’ve been doing so well lately … and it came back to haunt us.”
Lupul briefly restored some hope for the home fans by intercepting a pass at his own blue line and beating Corey Crawford high at 7:28 of the second period, but Stalberg and Bickell scored before the intermission to bring an early end to Reimer’s night.
Reimer was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Giguere to start the third period after allowing five goals on 19 shots. Reimer was tagged with his first regulation loss since Feb. 5.
The Leafs pushed hard to get back in the game in the final 20 minutes.
After Crabb scored at 4:26 on a play where the puck took a couple strange bounces, Mikhail Grabovski was hauled down on a breakaway. He made a nice deke that was denied by Crawford, who followed that up with a nice breakaway save on Mike Brown.
“(Crawford) was great in the third period, made a great save on the penalty shot,” Quenneville said.
Schenn scored in the final minute.
At Los Angeles, Daniel Sedin scored the tiebreaking goal with 8:24 to play, Roberto Luongo made 21 saves, and Vancouver opened a five-game road trip with a gritty victory over the Kings.
At Tampa, Fla., Max Pacioretty scored two goals and Carey Price made 43 saves to lead Montreal over the Lightning on Saturday night.
At Denver, Sam Gagner had a goal and two assists, Devan Dubnyk stopped 33 shots and the Edmonton Oilers won their third straight.
At Philadelphia, Jason Pominville snapped a tie game in the third period after Buffalo scored three times in the second, and the Sabres beat the slumping Flyers.
At Boston, Dustin Jeffrey scored his second goal of the game 1:52 into overtime and Pittsburgh snapped the Bruins’ winning streak at seven.
At Uniondale, N.Y., Islanders defenceman Andrew MacDonald scored two rare goals, John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau both had a goal and an assist in the first period, and New York sent sinking St. Louis to its fourth straight loss.
At Glendale, Ariz., Radim Vrbata’s shootout goal completed Phoenix’s late comeback against Detroit.
At Atlanta, Andrew Ladd netted his second goal of the game in overtime, and Blake Wheeler also scored twice for the Thrashers in a win over Florida.
At San Jose, Calif., Jason Williams scored his first goal of the season on a fluky deflection to break a third-period tie and help Dallas snap the Sharks’ eight-game winning streak.