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Matthews scores 19th, 20th, as Maple Leafs trounce struggling Oilers

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EDMONTON — As COVID-19 makes a determined resurgence and upends teams throughout the National Hockey League, Auston Matthews continues to go about his daily business for the Maple Leafs.

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And if you haven’t been paying attention — though we’re guessing you have — that’s filling the net for Toronto.

On Tuesday at Rogers Place, Matthews ran his point streak to 10 games with a goal in the first period, starting the Leafs on the way to a 5-1 victory against the reeling Edmonton Oilers.

Matthews added another goal in the third period, giving him 13 in his past 10 games, and 20 for the season. Those helped send the Oilers, who did not have ex-Leaf Zach Hyman (shoulder), to their sixth loss in a row.

Goalie Jack Campbell had his fingerprints on the victory, for good reason. The Leafs haven’t been steady defensively in recent games, and Tuesday was no different, especially in the second period when Campbell made 15 saves.

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Campbell kept his teammates in it and didn’t allow a goal until Colton Sceviour got a good bounce at 5:26 of the third period.

At times, Campbell was treated to the “Souuuuuup!” chant he gets whenever he plays well in Toronto, which is often. And Leafs fans in the crowd kept a “Go Leafs go!” chant going throughout the game.

Just over a minute after the Sceviour goal, Morgan Rielly took an excellent feed from William Nylander and beat Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen with a high shot to restore a three-goal Leafs lead.

Edmonton outshot Toronto 36-25, but neither Connor McDavid nor Leon Draisaitl were a significant factor for the home team.

The Leafs didn’t have four regulars, as forwards Mitch Marner (shoulder), Jason Spezza (suspension), Nick Ritchie (non-Covid illness) and Rasmus Sandin (leg) weren’t in the lineup.

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Forward Ilya Mikheyev made his regular-season debut after recovering from a broken thumb, and defenceman Travis Dermott returned after missing four games with a shoulder issue.

Brett Seney, who played in 53 games in two seasons with New Jersey, made his Leafs debut centring the fourth line after he recently was recalled from the Toronto Marlies.

In the second period, the Leafs didn’t have a shot on goal until 8:47, but Wayne Simmonds’ diligence made it count when he slipped the puck past Koskinen.

TJ Brodie scored his first goal of 2021-22 when his shot went off McDavid and past Koskinen at 14:54.

Matthews’ first goal came at 19:25 of the first period on a short pass from John Tavares during a Toronto power play.

That would have tied the game had Draisaitl not missed a two-foot putt earlier, shanking on an open net.

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The spectre of COVID-19 hung over the game as Oilers coach Dave Tippett wasn’t behind the bench for precautionary reasons, while Edmonton forward Ryan McLeod was placed in COVID-19 protocol.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, four Canucks — defencemen Luke Schenn, Brad Hunt and Tucker Poolman, and forward Juho Lammikko — were placed in COVID protocol on Tuesday.

With their game on Thursday against the Calgary Flames postponed, the Leafs are scheduled to practise in Vancouver on Thursday and Friday before facing the Canucks on Saturday. As we’re learning, however, plenty can happen between now and then to put that game in jeopardy, if it isn’t already.

“I know on our team, we’re trying to keep it tight in every facet,” Simmonds said of the COVID-19 impact. “No matter where we go, what we’re doing, we’re trying to stay out of the public. Any time something like this happens, it could have a huge outcome on your season. We just want to minimize the chance of it running through our team. We’re pretty on top of it.”

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There is progress being made by Sandin, who has been out since Dec. 5 with a right leg injury which occurred when he was kneed by Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk.

“Up until Sunday he was still on crutches, but he’s moving on to the next phase and starting to skate again,” Keefe said. “That’s what we expected, is that it would turn quickly once he was able to be weight bearing and it has.”

There was no immediate word of the result of Spezza’s appeal of his six-game suspension for kneeing Pionk in retaliation for the hit on Sandin. Spezza made his appeal to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday afternoon.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

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