Tavares scores overtime winner against Ducks
TORONTO — For the second time this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs gave up a two-goal lead at home in the third period. This time, they recovered to get a win.
John Tavares scored his second goal of the game at 4:53 of overtime, lifting the Maple Leafs to a 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
Auston Matthews got his 40th goal of the season to tie Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead and had three assists, while Jason Spezza and Andreas Johnsson also scored for Toronto. Mitch Marner also had three assists and Tavares had one.
The Maple Leafs squandered leads of 3-1 and 4-3 in the third period.
“It seems like we’re just lacking some confidence in those situations,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after his team was outshot 15-4 in the third by a club playing the second of a back-toback. “Almost like we’re waiting or expecting something bad to happen.
“It’s not what we want to be about.”
On Monday night, Toronto took a 3-1 in the third against Florida before falling 5-3.
Jack Campbell made 26 saves in his first start for the Maple Leafs, two nights after being acquired from Los Angeles.
“What a resilient group,” said Campbell, who admitted to some early jitters. “That’s a tough game when you give up the lead like that. But as a team you’ve got to appreciate the resilience.”
Tavares scored his 22nd goal of the season at the lip of the crease with 6.2 seconds left on the clock in the extra period after Rickard Rakell was sent off for tripping.
“We just had to stay with it,” Tavares said. “Not a very good third period. Not ideal and something we have to clean up.”
Adam Henrique had a goal and an assist, and Nicolas Deslauriers, Max Jones and Derek Grant also scored for Anaheim. Cam Fowler had two assists and Ryan Miller finished with 30 saves for the Ducks, who were playing for the third time in four nights.
Anaheim was forced to go with five defenseman for the third period and overtime after Erik Gudbranson left with an upper-body injury.
“We battled,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “We fought hard and showed some great character.” The Maple Leafs led 3-1 after 40 minutes, but Jones scored short-handed and Henrique on a power play a little more than four minutes apart in the third to tie it.
Spezza got Toronto back in front 4-3 when he raced down the right side, faked a shot on Miller, and scored his ninth upstairs from a tight angle with 3:27 left in regulation.
But Grant scored his 13th with 57 seconds left on the clock off a scramble in Campbell’s crease to knot it up again and force OT.
The win moved Toronto back into a playoff spot in third in the Atlantic Division, a point ahead of Florida, which has a game in hand.
“You just take the good and bad,” Matthews said of a win tainted by another squandered lead. “We don’t want to get in that position, and it’s been a position that we’ve been falling into quite a bit.”
WINNER — Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) knocks the puck past Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (36) to score in overtime during an NHL hockey game on Friday in Toronto.