April 20, 2024

Maple Leafs F Tyler Bertuzzi nets hat trick on 29th birthday

DENVER — Tyler Bertuzzi scored three times, including a go-ahead, power-play goal with 2:51 remaining, and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Saturday night for their seventh straight win.

Bertuzzi, a free agent signing last summer who has struggled with his new club, posted a multigoal effort in a regular-season game for the first time in more than two years, and he did so on his 29th birthday.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Bertuzzi is the fourth player in NHL history to record a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, on his birthday, and this is the first time that it’s happened for a Maple Leaf. What’s more, the effort was his first hat trick since Oct. 14, 2021, when his Detroit Red Wings met the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bertuzzi potted the winner when he took a pass from William Nylander and knocked it past Colorado goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. Bertuzzi’s goal came soon after Mikko Rantanen drew a delay penalty for sending the puck out of play.

“A great road trip for us,” said Bertuzzi, whose team closed a four-game trip by outscoring opponents 21-11 and earning a maximum eight points.

Nathan MacKinnon had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but his shot just before the buzzer was stopped by Ilya Samsonov, who finished with 26 saves.

“It was frustrating, because I thought we played hard and did a lot of good things,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But we certainly didn’t score easy, and I felt like we did it to ourselves.”

It’s the fourth hat trick of the month for the Maple Leafs. Only four teams have had four hat tricks in a single month over the past 25 years, according to NHL Stats. The list also includes Winnipeg (November 2018), Columbus (March 2018) and Los Angeles (November 2005).

Mitchell Marner added a goal and an assist.

The contest was billed as a showdown between two of the league’s top players in MacKinnon and Auston Matthews. It was MacKinnon who won in the statistical department, recording three assists to give him at least a point in all 28 home games this season. But Matthews, who had an assist, took home the all-important win — a rare one at Ball Arena, where Colorado entered with the best home mark.

Artturi Lehkonen, Andrew Cogliano and Rantanen had goals for Colorado.

Samsonov was stellar all night. He also got some help from the net, including on a shot where the puck caromed off the post and slid across the goal line. Just before it went in, Samsonov reached back with his blocker pad and smothered the puck.

Georgiev finished with 26 saves.

This game was the opposite of the Avalanche’s 5-3 win at Toronto on Jan. 13. In that game, the Maple Leafs stormed out to a 3-0 lead only to see Colorado score five unanswered goals. In this one, the Avalanche led 2-0 before the Maple Leafs responded with three straight before Rantanen tied it up.

It set the stage for Bertuzzi.

“Their power play, the last 10 games, is at 54%,” Bednar said of the Maple Leafs, who finished 2-for-2 with the man advantage. “And we talked about it: We can’t give them too many opportunities, and it ends up being the difference in the hockey game.”

“The last couple of weeks he’s really been playing some great hockey,” Marner said of Bertuzzi.

With three more assists, the speedy MacKinnon is averaging 2.11 points a game on home ice this season. He’s attempting to become the fourth player in the past 30 years to average at least two points at home in a season (minimum 25 games), according to NHL Stats. He would join the company of Connor McDavid (2.11 in 2020-21), Mario Lemieux (2.60 in 1995-96) and Jaromir Jagr (2.02 in 1995-96).

Defenseman Cale Makar had an assist to end a seven-game skid without a point.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.