TORONTO (AP) — Zach Aston-Reese scored twice and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 Friday night to snap a two-game skid.
Morgan Rielly had a goal and an assist, and Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews also scored to help Toronto improve to 4-2-1 in its last seven games. John Tavares and Calle Jarnkrok each had two assists and Ilya Samsonov finished with 32 saves to help Toronto increase its lead to three points ahead of third-place Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.
“When they were pressuring us hard, we did our job,” Marner said. “We bent a little bit, but didn’t break. We stayed to our structure. ... We got opportunities off it, and when we did, we didn’t miss.”
Martin Necas and Brady Skjei each scored for Carolina in its third loss in four games. Pyotr Kochetkov had 19 saves as the Hurricanes remained one point ahead of second-place New Jersey in the Metropolitan Division.
“A team with that skill level, you just can’t be giving them chances,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook said. “You’ve got to be able to stick with your game plan and stay tight, stay above people, don’t let their skill guys get behind you. ... We let that happen too many times.”
Aston-Reese got the scoring started as he tipped Erik Gustafsson's shot from the right point past Kochetkov 2:54 into the game.
Marner made it 2-0 with 7 1/2 minutes left in the first as fired a shot from the right circle off the post and in for his 25th.
Skjei got the Hurricanes on the scoreboard as his shot from the left circle bounced off his glove and over the line with 5:23 remaining in the period.
Tavares fired a shot from the left side that deflected off Matthews' knee on the right side and in on the power play with 2:22 left in the first to make it 3-1. It was Matthews' 32nd.
Necas pulled the Hurricanes within one again as he scored from the right circle with 9:15 left in the second. It was his 26th.
Aston-Reese got his second of the night and seventh of the season with 5:01 left in the middle period as he redirected Sam Lafferty's cross-ice feed from the left side past Kochetkov to make it 4-2.
“Always easy to play the rest of the game when you score on your first shift,” said Aston-Reese, who had one goal in his 23 previous games. “I was hoping for a third, but happy with the night.”
Rielly scored from the left circle to give Toronto a three-goal lead at 8:56 of the third. It was his fourth.
“Playoff-type of game feel in terms of both teams being conscious not to allow too much offense,” said Rielly, whose club was coming off Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado.
Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn played his first game at Scotiabank Arena as a member of the organization in nearly 4,000 days after he was reacquired from the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
“In one regard, yes, it feels like another lifetime,” said the 33-year-old Schenn, who was drafted fifth overall by Toronto in 2008 before his trade to Philadelphia in 2012. “In the same breath, everything just is familiar.”
Schenn received a nice ovation to start the game. He heard the old “Luuuuuke” chants rain down from the stands after a third-period hit on Sebastian Aho during a penalty kill.
“It hasn’t been smooth sailing,” said the defenseman from Saskatoon. “But there’s no question that the fans have always been great to me.”
Toronto lost Noel Acciari late in the first period when he took a blow up high in a collision with Carolina's Jesse Puljujarvi. The Maple Leafs, who were left with 10 forwards after once again dressing an extra defenseman, said the veteran center was held out for precautionary reasons.
Acciari won’t play Saturday, but was in the locker room with teammates after the game.
NEXT MAN UP
The Hurricanes played their second game without star forward Andrei Svechnikov, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Saturday. Svechnikov had 23 goals and 32 assists in 64 games.
Hurricanes: At Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Maple Leafs: At Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
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The Associated Press