Bertuzzi has birthday hat trick as Maple Leafs rally past Avalanche

Tyler Bertuzzi became the first Toronto Maple Leafs player to score a hat trick on his birthday to lead the way in a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

DENVER (AP) — Tyler Bertuzzi became the first Toronto Maple Leafs player in the franchise’s storied history to record a hat trick on their birthday.

Now that’s worth celebrating. 

Bertuzzi scored three times, including a go-ahead, power-play goal with 2:51 remaining, and the Maple Leafs beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Saturday night for their seventh straight win.

That’s worth celebrating, too.

“A great road trip for us,” said Bertuzzi, whose team closed a four-game trip by outscoring teams 21-11 and earning a maximum eight points.

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Bertuzzi notched his third career hat trick on his 29th birthday when he took a pass from William Nylander and knocked it past Colorado goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. Bertuzzi’s goal came soon after Mikko Rantanen drew a delaying game penalty for sending the puck out of play.

The penalty proved to be a costly mistake for an Avalanche team that led 2-0 early in the game.

Nathan MacKinnon had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but his shot just before the horn was stopped by Ilya Samsonov, who finished with 26 saves.

It’s the fourth hat trick of the month for the Maple Leafs. Only four teams have had four hat tricks in a single month over the last 25 years, according to NHL Stats. The list also includes Winnipeg (November 2018), Columbus (March 2018) and Los Angeles (November 2005).

Mitchell Marner added a goal and an assist, while Nylander had three assists.

The contest was billed as a showdown between two of the league’s top players in MacKinnon and Auston Matthews. It was MacKinnon who won in the statistical department, recording three assists to give him at least a point in all 28 home games this season. But Matthews, who had an assist, took home the all-important win — a rare one at Ball Arena, where Colorado entered with the best home mark.

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“I get to see it every day with Auston but obviously MacKinnon’s an unbelievable player,” Bertuzzi said of the marquee matchup. “It’s fun to watch.”

Artturi Lehkonen, Andrew Cogliano and Rantanen had goals for Colorado. The Avalanche drew two of the three penalties called in the game, with the Maple Leafs scoring on both.

“When you’re not scoring easy, you just can’t make a couple of those mistakes,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. 

Samsonov was stellar all night. He also got some help from the net, including one where the puck caromed off the post and slid across the goal line. Just before it went in, Samsonov reached back with his blocker pad and smothered the puck.

Georgiev finished with 26 saves.

This game was the opposite of the Avalanche’s 5-3 win at Toronto on Jan. 13. In that game, the Maple Leafs stormed out to a 3-0 lead only to see Colorado score five unanswered goals. In this one, the Avalanche led 2-0 before the Maple Leafs responded with three straight before Rantanen tied it up early in the third.

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It set the stage for Bertuzzi.

“The last couple of weeks he’s really been playing some great hockey,” Marner said.

With three more assists, the speedy MacKinnon is averaging 2.11 points a game on home ice this season. He’s attempting to become the fourth player over the last 30 years to average at least two points at home in a season (minimum 25 games), according to NHL Stats. He would join the company of Connor McDavid (2.11 in 2020-21), Mario Lemieux (2.60 in 1995-96) and Jaromir Jagr (2.02 in 1995-96).

Defenceman Cale Makar had an assist to end a seven-game skid without a point. 

“We had a good, hard game,” Cogliano said. “They are a good team — one of the best teams in the league.”


Maple Leafs: Return home to face Vegas on Tuesday.

Avalanche: Host Dallas on Tuesday.

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