Brendan Perlini had a goal and two assists, and the Chicago Blackhawks held off a furious Toronto comeback to beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 on Wednesday night.
Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist, and Duncan Keith, Dominik Kahun and Alex DeBrincat also scored as Chicago jumped out to a 5-0 lead before holding on for the win. Dylan Strome added two assists for the Blackhawks, who have won four straight and crept within four points of the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card in the Western Conference.
Corey Crawford stopped 17 of 18 shots through two periods before leaving the game due to illness. Colin Delia had 26 saves — all in the third.
Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly and Andreas Johnsson each had a goal and an assist for Toronto, and John Tavares also scored. William Nylander and Mitch Marner each had two assists. Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 14 shots in the first before he was replaced by Garret Sparks, who finished with 24 saves.
The Maple Leafs were coming off a 6-2 home loss to Tampa Bay on Monday, and followed it up with a sloppy, uninspired performance through two periods.
Chicago dominated from the opening faceoff and went ahead 1-0 at 3:19 of the first period when Keith’s shot that was deflected by Nylander, rattled around between Andersen’s pads and just slid over the goal line before Auston Matthews could stop its momentum.
The Blackhawks continued to press and went up by two with 7:05 left when Perlini took a pass from Strome, cut into the middle and whipped a knuckling puck against the grain on Andersen for his 12th of the season and fifth in the last four games.
Tavares lost the puck at the offensive blue line, leading to a 2-on-1 break the other way that saw Patrick Kane feed Kahun, who buried his 12th with 2:47 remaining in the first.
Andersen received a sarcastic cheer from the Scotiabank Arena crowd on his next save.
Maple Leafs defensemen Ron Hainsey motioned for fourth line center Frederik Gauthier to cover in front, but the message wasn’t received, leaving Saad all alone to tuck his 23rd beyond Andersen with 1:14 left in the period as four Toronto players were caught puck-watching.
It marked the first time the Leafs have given up four goals in a period this season, and the first time it’s happened in the opening 20 minutes of a home game since Dec. 23, 2008.
Andersen was replaced by Sparks to start the second, marking the first time in his career he’s been pulled in consecutive games.
Toronto came out with a little more fire in the second, but Crawford robbed Nylander in tight and Tavares rang a shot off the crossbar.
Chicago made it 5-0 with 7 1/2 minutes remaining in the middle period when Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev’s indecision led to DeBrincat taking a pass from Perlini and roofing a shot past Sparks for his 38th.
Toronto finally got on the board with 1:33 left in the second when Rielly, who on Tuesday was cleared of uttering an alleged homophobic slur in the Tampa game, had his shot deflected in by Johnsson for his 20th.
Matthews, who was playing the 200th game of his career, brought the Leafs a little closer at 7:57 of the third when he banked his 32nd.
Rielly then made it 5-3 on the power play when his shot through traffic found its way past Delia with just over 9 minutes remaining before the defenseman hit the post moments later.
Tavares then stuffed his career-high 39th past Delia with 1:31 left inside a raucous Scotiabank Arena.
The Leafs continued to press — Delia appeared to push the net off its moorings with under a minute to go during a mad scramble where he’d lost his stick — but the Blackhawks held on.
NOTES: After being held out of the lineup Monday for precautionary reasons because of an illness, Toronto announced Kasperi Kapanen has been diagnosed with a concussion. … The Maple Leafs were also minus Zach Hyman (flu), while defensemen Jake Gardiner (back) and Travis Dermott (shoulder) remain sidelined. … Nylander’s assist on Johnsson’s goal was the 100th of his career.
Blackhawks: At Montreal on Saturday night.
Maple Leafs: Host Philadelphia on Friday night to finish a three-game homestand.