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Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews handles the puck around Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Dec. 7.COLE BURSTON/The Canadian Press

Their lineup was riddled with injuries but it was still good enough for the Maple Leafs to get by the Blue Jackets 5-4 on Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena.

Toronto scored early and in bunches and then held on. Columbus scored twice over the final 3 minutes and 35 seconds, the last by Max Domi at the buzzer.

It was another big night for Auston Matthews, provided some relief for Nick Ritchie and excitement for rookies Alex Steeves and Kristians Rubins who made their NHL debuts.

Matthews scored twice and extended his goal streak to a career-high seven games, a span during which he has 10 of his 17 for the season. The 24-year-old has 72 goals in his last 83 games at home.

“It feels nice,” Matthews said. “I just try to do the same thing and play hard every night. It has been fun for the last month or so.”

The contest was effectively over after the first period. William Nylander scored his 11th goal, Matthews got his 16th and Ritchie finally got on the scoreboard as Toronto took control.

Nylander scored off a crisp pass from Matthews fewer than five minutes in and Matthews and Ritchie scored 1 minute 22 seconds apart as the Maple Leafs put the visitors into a hole from which they could not climb out.

Matthews’s first of the night came after a behind-the-back and between-the-legs pass from Michael Bunting. Ritchie, who was signed as a free agent in the off-season, had been scoreless in his first 26 games with Toronto.

“It has been a while,” Ritchie said. He had a career-best 15 goals for Boston in 2020-2021. “I wish it happened a little earlier but it did come and hopefully I can build some confidence and momentum.”

Ritchie’s teammates erupted in celebration when he found the back of the net.

“The whole bench was excited,” Matthews said. “He has had a lot of chances but has just been snake bit.”

The victory improved the Maple Leafs’ record to 18-7-2 and kept them in a tight race with the Florida Panthers fpor the top spot in the NHL’s Atlantic Division. Toronto has home games again on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning and on Saturday versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rather than charging, the Maple Leafs hobbled and limped into their 27th game and fielded a mix-and match lineup that could not have been foreseen in October.

The most badly hurt is Mitch Marner, who was placed on the injured-reserve list earlier in the day. The team’s top playmaker collided with Jake Muzzin at practice on Friday and has a mangled shoulder. Marner sat out road losses on Saturday and Sunday and is now expected to miss at least three weeks and possibly four.

Sheldon Keefe, the Toronto head coach, said Marner had an MRI on Monday and the damage was worse than expected. Marner was fourth on the team with six goals and 21 points in 24 games.

Defenceman Rasmus Sandin, who was struck knee on knee by Neal Pionk of Winnipeg during Sunday’s loss to the Jets, joined Marner on the injured list. He will likely be out for two to three weeks. That is less than was expected because he left the arena on crutches Sunday and was still unable to put weight on the leg on Monday.

“He has had an MRI as well and the results came back very positive,” Keefe said. “There is no real structural damage. It is just going to take some time for the bruising and swelling to settle down.”

In addition, defenceman Travis Dermott was held out of the contest against the Blue Jackets also due to a shoulder injury.

Late in the game, the club learned that Jason Spezza was suspended for six games for kneeing Pionk in retaliation for the blow that hurt Sandin. Spezza, who has seven goals and had replaced Marner on the first line on Saturday and Sunday, had a meeting on Tuesday with the league’s department of player safety.

On Monday, the NHL had suspended Pionk for two games.

“Things happen in this game – some unfortunate – and that certainly is one of them,” Keefe said. Spezza did not dress on Tuesday night. “Everyone in the game knows Jason Spezza and the character and the integrity that he has.”

With Marner and Spezza missing, Wayne Simmonds and Bunting were promoted to the first line with Matthews – and the other three lines were reshuffled. Alex Steeves, who played in the NCAA at Notre Dame, was promoted from the American Hockey League Marlies and played on the fourth line with Pierre Engvall and Kyle Clifford.

His family had been in town over the weekend to watch him compete for the Marlies and was on its way back to Minnesota on Manday when he was called up. His father, a doctor, had boarded a flight but disembarked before takeoff.

“The entire night was ‘Welcome to the NHL’,” Steeves said. “You couldn’t ask for more.”

Toronto also called up defencemen Kristians Rubins and Alex Biega. Like Steeves, Rubins made his NHL debut, while Biega was scratched after pre-game warmups.

“It was a dream come true,” Rubins, who is from Latvia, said. “What I will remember the most is my first shift and first shot and realizing it was real.”

Toronto did more than enough to make up for the absences of a handful of its players. Morgan Rielly had four assists and now has 19 to go along with three goals.

John Tavares scored his 12th goal, and Jack Campbell had 28 saves as his record improved to 14-4-2. Elvis Merzlikins was in the crease for Columbus and had 35 saves in the loss. The Blue Jackets fell to 13-11 overall and have lost five of their last six.

Oliver Bjorkstrand had their first two goals, the first on a power play with 8:21 left in the second period that cut the deficit to 3-1. Then Tavares tipped in a shot by Rielly and Matthews beat Merzlikins on a 2 on 1 to put the game away. The goals were scored only seven seconds apart.

Bjorkstrand beat Campbell 33 seconds into the third period, followed by another from Sean Kuraly with 3:35 left. Max Domi added another with half a second to play, but by then it was too late for the visitors.

“We are happy with the result, but the process needs some work, especially the third period,” Rielly said. “We need to support the goalie at the end.”