TORONTO — Michael Hutchinson had a 33-save shutout in the Maple Leafs’ 3-0 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday to stretch Toronto’s point streak to 10 games.
Pierre Engvall, Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman, into an empty net, scored for the Maple Leafs (24-14-5), who have won nine of their last 10 games.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 20-of-22 shots for the Islanders (25-12-3).
Starting goalie Frederik Andersen has been the backbone of Toronto’s streak, with a 6-0-1 record and .909 save percentage, but Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe opted to start Hutchinson instead.
Keefe said before the game that if Hutchinson didn’t get the start against the Islanders, there likely wouldn’t be another chance to rest Andersen over a seven-game stretch before the NHL all-star break starting on Jan. 24.
It was Hutchinson’s third-straight win, following a 4-1 victory over Detroit on Dec. 21 and a 5-4 overtime triumph in New Jersey on Dec. 27, both part of Toronto’s point streak.
Nylander brought the 19,536 in attendance to their feet with a breakaway on Varlamov 4:15 into the game. Nylander looked like he had the Islanders goalie beat but flipped the puck up too high, allowing Varlamov to knock it away from the net.
It was the closest Nylander would come to scoring, ending a five-game point streak where he had six goals and five assists.
Hutchinson stepped up in the second, facing 16 shots in the period but keeping New York off the scoreboard.
He made a highlight-reel glove save on Josh Bailey in the ninth minute of play, dropping into the butterfly but snagging the puck out of the air to keep the game scoreless.
Toronto broke the scoreless tie at the 13:25 mark of the period when Kasperi Kapanen slid the puck through New York defenceman Noah Dobson’s legs and then backhanded a pass to Engvall, who was skating into the slot and in a perfect position to shoot on Varlamov.
Matthews added to that lead 2:42 later, screening Varlamov as Mitch Marner sent in a long pass that the Maple Leafs centre quickly rotated around to chip over the Islanders’ goalie.
The Islanders continued to press — including a power play with 2:50 left in the second — but Hutchinson held firm.
Hutchinson’s impressive start continued 1:29 into the third period, blocking an Anders Lee wrister, kicking the rebound out with his pad and then smothering it with his glove.
Chants of “Hutchy” and “Let’s go Hutch!” rained down on Hutchinson from the sections directly behind him in the lower bowl of Scotiabank Arena after he made another smart glove save on Noah Dobson with 11:43 left to play.
Less than three minutes later, Hutchinson robbed Mathew Barzal, falling on his backside but snagging a wrist shot out of the air to preserve his shutout.
Hyman added an empty-net goal with 2:08 left to play. After defenceman Justin Holl dug the puck out of the boards behind Toronto’s goal, he passed to Matthews who sent it over to Marner, who in turn found a streaking Hyman.
Injured Maple Leafs forwards Andreas Johnsson (leg) and Trevor Moore (shoulder) were both wearing non-contact sweaters but participated in Saturday’s morning skate. … Equipment manager Brian Papineau was honoured for his 2,500th game behind Toronto’s bench. .. Pop superstar Justin Bieber was in attendance.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2020.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press