Matthews makes difference as Maple Leafs beat Bruins in Game 3

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There’s still a long way to go before Round 1 is settled between the Bruins and Maple Leafs, but Toronto left with more than a 2-1 series after a 3-2 win in Game 3. They had to leave with extra confidence.

Auston Matthews absorbed heavy criticism as he was unable to generate a single point through the first two contests in Boston, but he had a strong Game 3, scoring his first goal and first assist of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Maple Leafs also showed that they can hang onto a lead. They entered the third period with a 3-2 lead, and were able to protect that against a Bruins team that can be quite dangerous. As a bonus, they showed that they can at least slow the deadly line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, as that trio was unable to generate a single point on Monday.

Matthews had the biggest night, but maybe Mitch Marner‘s moments were the most symbolic. Pastrnak was pressing to get a final chance in the final seconds of Game 3, yet Marner blocked not one, but two shots to ice the win (and he’ll probably need to ice the spots that were wounded by those attempts). Finesse is clearly the Maple Leafs’ game, but they showed grit in Game 3.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

After a generally even first period ended 0-0, the two teams combined for five goals during a hectic second. Both power plays produced (two of Toronto’s three goals in the second period; one of Boston’s two), and, again, Matthews was able to make his presence felt.

Frederik Andersen continues to be a rock in net for Toronto, while Tuukka Rask was able to shake off this hard collision during the second period. Concussion spotters never took a look at Rask, even though he seemed dazed, but if Rask was limited afterward, it was tough to tell.

One promising sign for Boston is that, while the top line was nullified, the Bruins are getting decent production from supporting cast members. Charlie Coyle is starting to get the bounces he wasn’t receiving after being traded to Boston, as he scored his second goal of the postseason, while David Krejci nabbed his first goal of Round 1 on Monday. If Matthews’ top line can occasionally get the edge against Bergeron & Co., then players like Coyle and Krejci needed to step up.

After a tough Game 2 loss, the Maple Leafs regain their series lead to 2-1, and get a chance to take a stranglehold over Round 1 if they can win in Toronto on Wednesday.

Maple Leafs – Bruins Game 4 from Scotiabank Arena takes place Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN (Live stream)

More: Series preview

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.