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Maple Leafs home misery against Blues continue

TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to struggle at home against the St. Louis Blues.

Veterans Brandon Saad, captain Ryan O’Reilly and Pavel Buchnevich scored unanswered goals in the third period to push the Blues to a 6-3 win at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday and improve their record to 14-1-2 in their last 17 trips to Toronto, dating back to April 1, 1998.

The Blues gave the Maple Leafs fits off the rush all game, utilizing their speed off the counter-attack.

“We knew that they were going to be a rush team, and we just didn’t find a way to shut them down on the rush tonight,” Toronto defenceman T.J. Brodie said.

This was the Maple Leafs’ (32-13-3) third loss in their last five games as they were unable to build off their impressive win at home against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

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Shortly after the disappointing loss to the Blues (29-14-6), the Maple Leafs announced they acquired forward Ryan Dzingel and defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Nick Ritchie and a choice of draft picks, either Toronto’s third round in 2023 or a second-round selection in 2025.

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Ritchie was buried in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies because of his $2.5-million salary. Dzingel makes $1.1-million and is in the final year of his contract. The right-shot Lyubushkin is 27 and earns $1.35-million, also in the final season of his deal.

The Maple Leafs’ next game is in Montreal against the rival Canadiens on Monday. It is unknown whether Dzingel and Lyubushkin can make it across the border in time.

While the Blues beat one of the best team’s in the league in the Maple Leafs, they left Montreal red-faced with a 3-2 overtime loss on Thursday to end the Canadiens 10-game losing streak.

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“We didn’t defend well enough,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “They have a lot of skill.

“They’re as dangerous a team as any in the NHL, and they showed that tonight.”

Auston Matthews saw his nine-game point streak go by the wayside. He had scored nine goals and 18 points during the run.

The Maple Leafs did outshoot the visitors 37-34, but 27-year-old Helsinki native Ville Husso continued to play well in goal for St. Louis. He’s now 9-1-1 since the calendar flipped to 2022.

Toronto goalie Jack Campbell, who made 45 saves in the win against Pittsburgh, wasn’t supported by his teammates defensively before 9,089 at Scotiabank Arena. Relaxed provincial COVID-19 restrictions allowed the building to be at half-capacity.

“They’re a dangerous team,” Campbell said. “But we knew that going in, and they made the most of their chances.”

The Blues built a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Buchnevich with his first of two and Klim Kostin. Both goals came off the rush.

But William Nylander, who had gone seven games without a goal, scored late in the first period and early in the second period to even up the proceedings.

However, 29 seconds after Nylander’s second goal, St. Louis centre Brayden Schenn tied the game by knocking in his rebound.

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Brodie drove in a screenshot from the point to tie up the game before the second intermission.

But in the third period, Saad scored early on a nifty three-way passing play with linemate David Perron and defenceman Colton Parayko. O’Reilly deflected in a Niko Mikkola shot midway through the frame, and Buchnevich scored into the empty net.

This report was first published by the Canadian Press Feb. 19, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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