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Leafs bury Avalanche

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DENVER—Tyler Bozak made a triumphant return to Denver and led the surging Toronto Maple Leafs to a big win.

Bozak scored three times in the third period as Toronto broke loose for four goals in the final 20 minutes to dump the Colorado Avalanche 7-4 last night.

Leo Komarov had two goals and an assist, James van Riemsdyk added a goal and two assists, and Joffrey Lupul scored one of three power-play goals that helped the Leafs stop Colorado’s five-game winning streak.

Bozak played two seasons for the University of Denver before signing with the Leafs in 2009.

He had three goals in eight previous games against Colorado but doubled that total in less than 16 minutes of the third period.

“We were tied going into the third and whenever you are on the road and go into the third tied, it’s not bad,” Bozak said.

“We got some good plays and some lucky bounces.”

Bozak got his first goal when he joined a 2-on-1 rush with van Riemsdyk.

Bozak took a pass from van Riemsdyk and goalie Semyon Varlamov made the initial save, but the puck trickled through his legs and over the line 49 seconds into the period.

Bozak scored on a breakaway at 6:47 to put Toronto up 5-3 before van Riemsdyk finished the flurry with his 11th at 10:40.

Bozak capped his second career hat trick with an empty-net goal at 16:20.

The Avalanche crowd didn’t throw the customary hats on the ice for Bozak, who played college hockey for the Pioneers just a few miles up the road.

“I had a couple buddies here so I thought they might have thrown it out there, but that’s OK,” Bozak said.

“They might not have been close enough to the ice.”

Defenceman Jake Gardiner had four assists for the Leafs, who are 4-0-2 in their last six games.

Jack Skille scored twice while Erik Johnson and John Mitchell also had goals for Colorado.

Varlamov, who carried a 0.99 GAA while winning six-straight games, allowed six goals on 21 shots.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Varlamov looked “tired,” but he didn’t pull him because back-up Reto Berra hurt his ankle playing soccer before the game.

Berra was scheduled for an MRI today.

Toronto’s power play is converting at 14.6 percent against the rest of the NHL but 87.5 percent versus Colorado this season.

The Leafs went 4-of-5 with the man advantage when the teams met Nov. 17 and they built on that last night.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock said he didn’t know why his team has had so much success against Colorado’s penalty-killers.

“I’d like to have them [Avalanche] on the schedule more,” he quipped.

“They’ve got a good penalty kill. We just seem to have them,” Babcock added.

“Tough way to go into the [Christmas] break,” said Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon.

“We’ve been playing some good hockey,” he noted.

“[But] when you give up three power-play goals, it’s tough to win.”

Elsewhere in the NHL, Edmonton beat Winnipeg 3-1, Nashville dumped Montreal 5-1, and Dallas doubled Minnesota 6-3.

The N.Y. Islanders beat Anaheim 5-2, Philadelphia edged St. Louis 4-3, Pittsburgh downed Columbus 5-2, and Washington nipped Carolina 2-1.

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