TORONTO (AP)Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe is running out of adjectives to describe goalie Jack Campbell. One word, however, continues to surface – consistency.
Campbell made 24 saves in his 100th NHL regular-season appearance to register his third shutout of the season in the Maple Leafs’ 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Coming off a stellar 2020-21 season where he set a league record for wins to start the schedule, Campbell was expected to share the crease with free-agent signing Petr Mrazek. But with the latter having made just two appearances because of a groin injury, all the 29-year-old has done is stake his claim night after impressive night.
”That was the question, right?” Keefe said of Campbell, who picked up his seventh career shutout. ”Can you do it again? Can you do it as the No. 1 guy and playing more frequently? There hasn’t been the partner that we intended. Jack’s just remained consistent and solid.”
Auston Matthews, David Kampf and Mitch Marner scored for Toronto, which has won nine of its last 10 games. Matthews and Kampf both added assists.
Juuse Saros stopped 31 shots as Nashville lost in regulation for just the second time in its last 11 contests.
”I don’t think it was our best game,” Nashville defenseman Mark Borowiecki said. ”They outplayed us for long portions.”
Toronto honored Dion Phaneuf before puck drop after the former captain announced his retirement earlier Tuesday. Then the Maple Leafs jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 7:37 of the opening period. William Nylander found Matthews with a cross-ice pass, and he beat Saros shortside for his seventh goal of the season.
Toronto appeared to go up 2-0 at 4:35 on a scramble in front, but Matthews’ shot hit the crossbar and post and stayed out on a sequence that was originally called a goal on the ice.
Campbell kept his shutout bid alive midway through the period when he stopped Roman Josi in close.
Kampf sealed it with 3:56 left off a pass from Ondrej Kase, and Campbell shut the door from there before Marner got an empty-netter.
”I can’t say enough good things about Soup,” Matthews said of Campbell, whom Toronto got in a trade from the Los Angeles Kings in February 2020. ”He’s been so good for us ever since he’s got here. I could go on and on, but just his attitude every day, comes to the rink with a smile on his face.”
Campbell, too, seems pleased with how things are going.
”The teammates here, and the coaches, are just amazing,” he said. ”Just really grateful.”
Nashville visited Scotiabank Arena for the first time since March 12, 2020, when they were supposed to play the Leafs before the NHL suspended its schedule because of the pandemic.
NOTES: Toronto reacquired Kyle Clifford from St. Louis for future consideration on Tuesday. The Leafs originally traded for the grinding winger along with Campbell from the Los Angeles Kings in February 2020.
Predators: Were supposed to play Thursday in Ottawa, but that game was among the three postponed this week because of the Senators’ COVID-19 outbreak. Nashville visits Montreal on Saturday.
Maple Leafs: Hosts the New York Rangers on Thursday.
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