March 23, 2018 / 3:20 AM / in a month

Maple Leafs cool off hot Predators 5-2

Auston Matthews and William Nylander scored goals 98 seconds apart late in the second period Thursday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs handed the Nashville Predators their first regulation loss since Feb. 17 with a 5-2 decision at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

James van Riemsdyk added his eighth goal in five games for Toronto, which got 23 saves from goalie Frederik Andersen while strafing Vezina Trophy favorite Pekka Rinne. In losing for the first time since mid-February, he made 23 saves.

Toronto came out with the jump, earning an early power play and capitalizing with a weird goal at 4:03. Trying to make a centering pass after gathering in the rebound of Mitch Marner’s shot, van Riemsdyk instead scored his 34th goal when the puck hit Roman Josi’s skate and went through Rinne’s pads.

That was the only goal of a first period dominated by the Maple Leafs, who outshot Nashville 13-4 and used their speed at every turn, making the Predators look unusually listless. But Nashville responded with the tying goal on the man advantage at 5:42 of the second period.

P.K. Subban knocked down the puck at the blue line and found Viktor Arvidsson open at the goalmouth. He flicked the puck over Andersen’s glove for his team-high 27th goal.

But Matthews turned momentum in Toronto’s favor shortly after it killed off a penalty.

Morgan Rielly hit him with a pass in the left circle and Matthews skated into the slot for a backhander that Rinne denied. However, Matthews collected the rebound and roofed a wrister over Rinne’s glove at 15:06 for his 29th marker.

Nylander made it 3-1 at 16:44, winning a goalmouth scrum for the puck after a dump-in struck a stanchion along the boards and caromed in front of Rinne. Nylander chipped the puck into the net for his 16th goal.

The Maple Leafs put the game away with two goals in the first 3:39 of the third period. Marner scored his 20th of the season on the power play just nine seconds into the period, while Jake Gardiner added his fifth exactly 3-1/2 minutes later.

Scott Hartnell scored his 13th goal for Nashville at 15:37, but it wasn’t enough for it to extend its point streak to 16 games.

—Field Level Media

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