NHL Hockey

Leafs' Auston Matthews looks to continue hot streak vs. Predators

Despite Toronto's frustrating defeat the last time out, Auston Matthews continues to surge for the Maple Leafs.

He's also been pretty good against the Nashville Predators, of late.

While Matthews looks to stay hot, the Maple Leafs will try to avoid losing consecutive road games for the first time in more than two months on Sunday against the Predators.

Sitting second in the Atlantic Division, Toronto (43-20-9, 95 points) is just 6-5-1 in March. On Saturday night, the Maple Leafs often outplayed the Carolina Hurricanes, and leveled things at 3-3 with Matthews' second goal late in regulation. However, the Hurricanes regained the lead 32 seconds later, and won 5-3.

The result dropped Toronto to 2-2-0 amid a five-game stretch on the road, where it's 7-5-0 since losing consecutive contests during an 0-2-1 slide from Jan. 12-21.

Despite dealing with knee issues this month, Matthews has 10 goals and eight assists during his past 13 games.

"He's right back to being one of the most dominant players in the league," Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said of Matthews, who has 36 goals and 39 assists in 65 games this season.

Matthews did not play during Toronto's 2-1 home victory over the Predators on Jan. 11. However, he has three goals with two assists in his past three games against them.

Meanwhile, teammate Mitchell Marner, four points shy of matching his career high of 97, is riding a nine-game point steak (six goals, 10 assists). He has 12 points in 10 career games against the Predators.

Five points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, Nashville (36-27-8, 80 points) won two straight before Saturday's 7-2 home loss to the Seattle Kraken. It's the second time in four games the Predators matched their season high for goals allowed.

Matt Duchene and defenseman Tyson Barrie each had a goal with an assist Saturday for Nashville, which led 3-2 early in the third. The Predators last dropped back-to-back games in regulation on Feb. 13 and 16.

"We just have to do a better job," Nashville coach John Hynes told Bally Sports South.

"The competitive level that you need to play with to win ... and, I think, mentally, just the details you need to play with, we just didn't have it (against Seattle).

"We've got to come back energized and with the right mindset."

Nashville's Juuse Saros, with a 3.44 goals-against average in his past five appearances, stopped 32 shots Saturday. He made 33 saves at Toronto in January, but backup Kevin Lankinen could start in this back-to-back scenario. Lankinen (2.70 GAA) was pulled after yielding four goals on five shots during a 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers on March 19.

Duchene assisted on a goal by Filip Forsberg, out since Feb. 11 with an upper-body issue, at Toronto this year -- giving him 15 points in 20 career games against the Maple Leafs. A 20-goal scorer for the ninth time, Duchene has three goals with two assists in three games after being held without a point in his previous six.

Toronto's Matt Murray made 23 saves Saturday, but has allowed at least four goals in seven of eight starts. Joseph Woll served as Murray's backup with Ilya Samonsov away following the birth of his first child.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 26, 2023

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