Matthews scores in return as Leafs pass test vs. league-leading Predators
Toronto hands Nashville 1st regulation loss (14-0-1) since Feb. 17
Auston Matthews didn't look rusty in his return from a monthlong layoff.
Matthews had a goal in his first game back from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.
"I felt fine out there," Matthews said. "I got engaged early, got the puck, able to make a couple of plays and that kind of builds your confidence for the rest of the game."
The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.
"One team was fast, the other team wasn't fast," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "To me, that's where you get lopsided. The ice seems to tilt one way and we've done that, too. We were off the mark with regard to that tonight and we'll look to fix it and be better."
JVR stays hot
James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.
Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.
Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves.
Van Riemsdyk scored on a power play 4:03 into the first period off a pass from Marner. Van Riemsdyk tried to pass between his skates, but the puck deflected off defenceman Roman Josi's stick and past Rinne. It was van Riemsdyk's team-leading 11th power-play goal.
Arvidsson tied it with a power-play goal 5:42 into the second before Matthews and Nylander scored 1:38 apart late in the period to make it 3-1.
Oh hey there, <a href="https://twitter.com/AM34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AM34</a>. Nice to have you back. <a href="https://t.co/lHjbAR0FqV">pic.twitter.com/lHjbAR0FqV</a>—@NHL
"The first night, you always have energy, it's now what's going to come?" Toronto coach Mike Babcock said of Matthews. "The good thing about it is he has been able to skate. His linemates were really good tonight and that helped him as well."
Marner's power-play goal at nine seconds of the third made it 4-1. Toronto has scored at least one goal with the man advantage in seven straight games.
"Obviously, starting on the power play, it's an advantage so we wanted to make sure right away we tried to make the most of it," Marner said. "Lucky enough, we did."
Gardiner's slap shot from the left side gave Toronto a 5-1 lead at 3:39 of the third.
One Predator thought they were due for a letdown.
They 'played a lot better than us'
"I think we deserved every second of that," defenceman Ryan Ellis said. "Good team came in here and played a lot better than us. I think you look at this stretch we've had of (15) games with points, we've been squeaking out wins. We've been finding ways to win. But that's not playoff hockey."
Hartnell scored his 13th of the season at 15:37.