VANCOUVER — John Tavares scored twice but goaltender Frederik Andersen was the difference as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 Tuesday night.
Andersen made 38 saves, including stopping Vancouver's Brock Boeser on three breakaways, two of them in the third period. He also stopped Bo Horvat on a breakaway.
"He was phenomenal," said Tavares, who also had an assist. "They made some plays behind us and he came up big and really gave us a great chance to win."
Head coach Sheldon Keefe said without Andersen the game could of had a different result.
"We know if we make a mistake, he's going to be there," said Keefe. "It's great that he was up to the challenge for us. Those are game-changing saves that you need."
Andersen said he was reading off what the Canucks were showing, then reacting.
"It's fun to make the saves and be a difference maker and try to help the team," he said. "They took care of everything in (the Vancouver) end and came up with some huge goals."
Boeser, who has just one goal in his last eight games, didn't try to hide his frustration.
"It sucks," he said. "It's part of the game. I haven't been playing my personal best hockey of late. I really wanted to make this a statement game.
"I'll practice tomorrow and make sure I score the next time I get those opportunities."
Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman, into an empty net, also scored for the Leafs (15-13-4) who have won the opening two matches of a four-game road trip. Mitch Marner and Justin Holl had two assists each.
Josh Leivo scored for the Canucks (15-12-4), who saw a two-game win streak snapped. It was the seventh goal of the season for Leivo, a former Leafs, and his fourth in his last four games.
Toronto is 6-3-0 since Keefe replaced Mike Babcock as coach. Tavares said the Leafs are adjusting to how Keefe wants them to play.
"I think we're getting more and more comfortable in our own zone, just defending teams when they seem to gain some momentum," he said. "We're getting a little more comfortable once we do get the puck. I think we'll continue to get better from here."
Tavares made a nice play on the game's opening goal at 1:45 of the second period. The Leafs captain collected a puck off the boards behind the Canucks net, then passed out front to an open Matthews, who scored his 19th of the season.
The Leafs went ahead 2-0 with just 20 seconds left in the period when Tavares deflected a Cody Ceci shot past Canuck goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
Tavares scored his second goal at 14:58 of the third period, taking a Marner pass and ripping a shot into the upper corner of the net to make it 3-1.
"I'm just trying to play my game," said Tavares, who has 12 goals and 23 points in 25 games. "It was a good result."
While not happy with the final score the Canucks took some solace in how they played. Vancouver hit two crossbars in the third period.
"We had a lot of chances," said Leivo, who had an ice pack on his left ankle. "I don't think we should be down on the way we played. We battled; we had a lot of shots.
"Anderson stood on his head and played really well."
Vancouver's Micheal Ferland earned some loud cheers in the first period when he flattened Toronto's Alexander Kerfoot and Ceci with bruising hits on the same shift. Ferland, who was playing in just his second game after missing 17 with a concussion, played just one shift in the second period then left the game and didn't return.
Head coach Travis Green said it was one of his team's best efforts over the last 10 games.
"We checked off a lot of boxes that we wanted to do tonight," he said. "We just didn't get the goals.
"I liked almost our whole game. I've said it before. Sometimes you play well, and you lose."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 10, 2019.
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press