Kessel scores twice in Leafs' 6th straight win
Surging Toronto beats Avalanche 5-2
The Toronto Maple Leafs center has been in high demand since he started piling up the points, but getting him to speak postgame might be tougher than stopping him with the puck.
Lately, it is darn near impossible to contain him on the ice -- as the Colorado Avalanche found out Tuesday night.
Kessel scored two goals, left winger James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist, and the surging Maple Leafs held off Colorado 5-2 for their sixth straight win.
Leafs center Nazem Kadri also scored, and Toronto goaltender James Reimer made 35 saves.
The Maple Leafs are on their first six-game winning streak since Dec. 23, 2005-Jan. 2, 2006. They scored at least four goals for the fifth time during the current run.
"There's a lot more life in the room," Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "We've got a confidence in our dressing room that we feel good about ourselves."
Center Nathan MacKinnon had two goals for Colorado.
Kessel is playing a big part in Toronto's streak. He has six goals and eight assists in the six games, and he nearly had his second hat trick of the season against the Avalanche.
"With Phil, if he continues to get chances, he's got a history behind him and he knows how to score goals," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said.
After another stellar performance, Kessel made a rare appearance in the locker room and joked about shunning the spotlight.
"Hi, Phil Kessel from Madison, Wisconsin," he said.
He then attempted to deflect attention away from himself.
"We're winning, that's the most important thing," he said.
Kessel, who extended his points streak to seven games, put Toronto ahead 1-0 just 3:56 into the game.
Phaneuf's long pass went off the back boards in the Colorado zone. Kessel got behind the Avalanche defense, gathered the puck and beat goalie Semyon Varlamov with a soft shot from in close.
"I couldn't get it to him up the middle, the D-man was there, so I thought I'd try to bank it, and it bounced to him," Phaneuf said. "He recognized what I was doing. He's got that great speed, and he showed it right there."
Later in the period, van Riemsdyk made it 2-0 on the power play with his 20th of the season.
Toronto put it away early in the second period with goals 2:22 apart. Kadri redirected defenseman Jake Gardiner's shot from the point to make it 3-0 and end Varlamov's night.
Varlamov allowed three goals on just 10 shots.
"I think Varly was just a bit tired," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I almost took him out after the first period. I didn't see in him the same energy that he's shown since the start of the year. When he gave up that third goal, there's no need to push that."
Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who had not played since allowing four goals against the Calgary Flames two weeks ago, came on. Kessel scored his 26th goal of the season minutes later to give Toronto a 4-0 lead.
Giguere made 19 saves in relief of Varlamov.
The Avalanche finally broke through when MacKinnon took a pass from right winger P.A. Parenteau on a two-on-one and beat Reimer.
Colorado started the third period with the first eight shots on goal, and MacKinnon cashed in on one with 14:53 left to make it 4-2.
Avalanche center Matt Duchene nearly scored on a short-handed breakaway but was slashed by Phaneuf.
Giguere came off for an extra skater with 2:56 left, and Toronto center Jay McClement scored into the empty net less than a minute later.
"We lost the game in the second period," MacKinnon said. "Their goalie made some good saves for them. We've been playing well of late, but we can't let this game get us down too much."
NOTES: The Avalanche activated RW P.A. Parenteau and D Nate Guenin from injured reserve. Parenteau, who missed 10 games with a sprained left knee, was in the lineup. Guenin was scratched. ... The Maple Leafs' last six-game winning streak was Dec. 23, 2005 to Jan. 2, 2006. ... Colorado honored referee Brad Watson before the game. Watson was officiating in his 1,000th NHL game. ... D Dion Phaneuf owns the Toronto records for most games played (38) and assists (15) against Colorado. ... Avalanche LW Alex Tanguay (hip) missed his 36th game, but he has been skating. He could return to the lineup as early as Friday, when Colorado plays the Panthers in Florida.
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