December 29, 2017 / 5:22 AM / a year ago

Matthews right at home as Leafs overwhelm Coyotes

Matthews right at home as Leafs overwhelm Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With dozens of friends and family looking on, Auston Matthews made his 15th goal of the season a memorable one.

Matthews scored his first career goal in his native Arizona and Patrick Marleau added two goals and an assist as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Arizona Coyotes 7-4 on Thursday night.

“It was a great feeling,” said Matthews, who grew up in nearby Scottsdale and was playing his second career game in the Phoenix area. “It was a pretty special goal.”

Matthews has goals in each of his last two games after missing six games with concussion symptoms.

“Obviously you’re excited because your family is here so it’s a good thing,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “To me, Auston is just on his way back. He’s been out for a while and, like a lot of us, we were off for Christmas and we aren’t where we want to be.”

Mitch Marner recorded a goal and two assists, William Nylander had a goal and an assist, and Zach Hyman and Connor Brown also scored for the Maple Leafs, who have won two of their last three games. Toronto (23-14-1) moved one point ahead of the Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division.

“I like the fact we won but I didn’t think it was a very high-level game,” Babcock said.

Jordan Martinook had a goal and an assist, and Josh Archibald, Brendan Perlini and Christian Fischer also scored for the Coyotes, who fell to a league-worst 9-26-5. Arizona has lost two of three, giving up at least six goals in each of the defeats.

“I don’t think Toronto beat us,” Martinook said. “We beat us tonight. I’m running out of words to say about what the problem is but it’s happening over and over again and it’s frustrating. We’re such a fragile group when something bad happens to us.”

After nearly squandering an early three-goal lead, the Maple Leafs salted the game away with three goals in a 6:08 span of the second period, the last two coming 10 seconds apart.

Marleau gave Toronto a 4-2 lead at 9:15 of the middle period, redirecting a pass from Marner past Arizona goalie Scott Wedgewood from the low slot.

Nylander made it 5-2 at 15:13, pouncing on a turnover by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and scoring an unassisted goal past a sprawling Wedgewood.

Marleau followed 10 seconds later, capping a play that started with another Coyotes turnover. He chipped the puck into the net from the right side of the crease for his 14th goal and second two-goal game this season.

Martinook cut the lead to 6-3 at 18:33 when he scored on a long rebound. Arizona took advantage of another rebound on a power play at 14:07 of the third, with Fischer scoring off Clayton Keller’s initial shot to make it 6-4.

Brown added an empty-net goal with 2:30 to play, eight seconds after Wedgewood was pulled in favor an extra attacker.

Hyman gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 8:55 of the first after Coyotes center Derek Stepan whiffed on a pass from just inside the Toronto zone. The puck hopped backward toward center ice, where Hyman took it under control and skated in for an unassisted, short-handed goal.

“The last time we played them they got two power-play goals on us so it was to get one back,” said Hyman, who grew up playing against Wedgewood. “He’s a really good guy but I was happy I scored that one.”

Matthews stretched the lead to 2-0 at 10:58 on a quick blast from the inside hash of the left circle, and Marner scored on a one-timer 27 seconds later to make it 3-0.

The Coyotes tried to rally with two goals in 77 seconds. Archibald scored his first Coyotes goal at 14:15 of the first period after the puck popped into the crease behind Frederik Andersen after a scrum in front of the net. Perlini pulled Arizona within a goal at 15:32, taking a pass in front of the net from Tobias Rieder.

“It was definitely the start we wanted,” Matthews said. “I think halfway through the first period we kinda got away from it a little bit. I think we just took our foot off the gas.”

Andersen made 30 saves, while Wedgewood stopped 26 shots.

“I didn’t feel like pulling him,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “I wanted him to battle a little bit. Sometimes it’s good to battle and we did. I didn’t see the game as Toronto having waves and waves against us. I just saw some crucial individual mistakes.”

NOTES: Toronto C Nazem Kadri left the game midway through the first period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Coach Mike Babcock said he would be re-evaluated after the team’s flight to Colorado. ... Maple Leafs C William Nylander recorded his 100th career point with an assist on C Auston Matthews’ goal. ... Coyotes LW Brendan Perlini broke a 12-game streak without a goal. Perlini, who had been a healthy scratch Saturday against Colorado, has scored a team-best 23 goals since he was recalled on Dec. 5, 2016. ... Arizona RW Josh Archibald’s goal was the fourth of his career, the other three coming during his 11 career games with Pittsburgh. ... Maple Leafs C Mitch Marner has three goals in his past four games. ... Coyotes C Clayton Keller leads the team with 13 goals and 31 points, and has eight points during a seven-game point streak.

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