Auston Matthews continued his run as the NHL leading goal scorer with his third hat trick of the season, and sixth of his career, helping the Toronto Maple Leafs rally from a one-goal deficit in the final period to defeat the Seattle Kraken, 6-4 in the second and final meeting on Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena.
Before a sellout crowd of 17,547, the Kraken – who began the day on a much more upbeat note with a five-year contract extension announced for leading scorer Jared McCann – had the inside track to an upset win in increasingly dramatic proportions.
Originally trailing 3-1, they ripped off three unanswered goals including a shorthanded tally by Colin Blackwell, but Toronto stormed back with three goals in the final 10:57 to sweep the two-game season series.
“When I look at a 60 minute hockey game, we were incomplete,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “The end of the day, the bottom line is this – we’ve got 11 or 12 minutes to go in a hockey game, against a team playing last night, showing tired legs in the third period, and we’re there with a one goal lead.”
“We gave that up too much easily.”
Forcing a visibly tired Maple Leafs squad into three penalties in a span of under 11 minutes between the second and third periods, the Kraken took the lead in amazing fashion on a Jaden Schwartz deflection at the net – his first goal since returning from injury – for a 4-3 lead at 5:57 of the third period.
The lead though would last three minutes and six seconds.
Matthews – who ended the night with 36 goals in his last 37 games – maneuvered an oil-slick backhander to tie the game on Philipp Grubauer’s glove side at 9:03. On the next shift, Carson Soucy was whistled for a cross-checking minor.
It took all of five seconds for the Maple Leafs to win an end zone face-off, draw the puck back to Mitch Marner, and take the lead at 9:43 as he uncorked a snap shot from the slot for his 23rd goal of the season.
“Special teams, we can’t give them opportunities,” said Wennberg. “We had too much kill to give them the chance.”
“When you’re up by a goal, you’ve got to finish a game and play simple – and we didn’t find a way.”
Toronto’s power play – ranked atop the NHL – went 3-for-7 in the game.
Matthews and Carson Soucy traded goals 2:03 apart in the first period and Toronto reclaimed the lead on a John Tavares break with 10:05 left in the first, bumping their lead to 3-1 on William Nylander power play goal from the right circle.
The Kraken stormed back on another exquisite, two-on-one finish from Marcus Johansson to Alex Wennberg with 10:40 left in the second period, similarly sparking a rally akin to six days ago against Nashville.
Yanni Gourde fed Colin Blackwell on a shorthanded, two-on-one break to tie the game with 8:11 left in the second period, the sixth Kraken shorthanded goal this season and Blackwell’s fifth point in four games.
But Schwartz’s goal, followed by Matthews’ game-tying tally and Marner’s power play goal, was finished off by Matthews’ empty netter and hat trick with 42 seconds left.
“We have to be honest with ourselves in this one,” said Hakstol. “We’ve played our tails off and have been really hard to play against. This team can force you into some tough situations. But we weren’t hard enough to play against in a lot of areas tonight.”
The Kraken, into a three-game losing skid, will search for their first win of the trip on Thursday, 4pm PT against the host Ottawa Senators.
The Kraken fell to 17-37-5 (39 points) while Toronto, 37-16-4, moved to within two points of second place Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.