But Toronto coach Mike Babcock saw enough to be encouraged.
“Some people would think it was ugly,” Babcock said. “I thought it was beautiful.
“We need to figure out who we are, and the harder the game is, the better it is for us. Now, would you like to win by a touchdown and everyone relax and all that?
“Yea, but we’re not getting anywhere like that.”
Alexander Kerfoot also scored for Toronto (8-5-3), which got 24 saves from Frederik Andersen. Matthews and Nylander each added an assist.
Captain John Tavares was back in the lineup Toronto after missing seven games with a broken finger.
“Not bad,” he said of his performance. “Probably a little bit of rust and just getting back into the rhythm of things.”
Alex Iafallo scored for Los Angeles (5-10-0). Jonathan Quick made 20 saves.
“No one in here likes to lose,” said Quick, one of the holdovers from the Kings‘ Cup victories in 2012 and 2014 that’s had a front-row seat to the franchise’s steep decline. “The only people that can do something about it is us. We’ve got to keep working.”
Matthews snapped a 1-1 tie with 7:24 left in regulation. Andreas Johnsson sent a pass in front that went off Nylander and right to the Leafs‘ center, who scored his 12th goal of the season.
With fans still celebrating, Nylander moved in on a 2-on-1 with Matthews and outwaited Quick and Kings defenseman Sean Walker before scoring his fourth at 6:54.
Toronto, which went 3-2-2 without Tavares, including Saturday’s 4-3 shootout victory at Philadelphia that went a team-record 11 rounds, got a power play to start the third after Alec Martinez went off for tripping at the end of the second. But Quick stretched and robbed Matthews off a feed from Mitch Marner.
Martinez found himself down low on Andersen with nine minutes left in regulation, but the defenseman sent his backhand wide.
Quick then snapped out the glove to deny Travis Dermott off a feed from Kasperi Kapanen before Matthews gave the Leafs the lead on the next shift.
The Kings opened the scoring at 5:40 of the second with Kerfoot in the penalty box for interference. Anze Kopitar’s initial shot off the end boards popped out the other side to Iafallo, who quickly tucked his fifth behind Andersen.
The Leafs got even with 6:31 left in the period when Walker turned the puck over just as teammates Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis collided in the defensive zone. Kerfoot moved in alone and fired his fifth past Quick.
Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin, acquired from the Kings in January for winger Carl Grundstrom, prospect Sean Durzi and a 2019 first-round pick, played his first game against his former team and took a penalty late in the second for interference.
But the Leafs had the best chance when Ilya Mikheyev broke in short-handed, only to be denied by Quick. Marner couldn’t find the range on the rebound.
Toronto held a 25-9 edge in shot attempts in the first period.
“The few mistakes we made ended up in our net,” Los Angeles head coach Todd McLellan said. “We checked real well, did what we had to do. We were just a little short.”
NOTES: Toronto was just 2 for 22 on the man-advantage in seven games without Tavares. … Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie played the 500th regular-season game of his NHL career. … There was a video tribute and moment of silence before puck drop for former Leafs general manager and long-time league executive Jim Gregory, who died last week at age 83.
Kings: At Ottawa on Thursday.
Maple Leafs: Host Vegas on Thursday.
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