Makeshift line comes up huge for Leafs

Figuring out the 2014-15 Leafs can be a puzzle. On some nights the right pieces just seem to fit.

In Toronto’s 5-3 win over Dallas at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, the trio of Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri and Mike Santorelli meshed exceptionally well, combining for eight points on the night. A head injury to Leo Komarov necessitated some line shuffling, and the result was positive for the home team.

Since a colossal embarrassment at the hands of Nashville a fortnight ago, the Leafs have earned points in 5 straight games, going 4-0-1 over that stretch.

Santorelli in particular showed a persistent work ethic, best evidenced on Kadri’s first period marker that put Toronto up 2-0. Stripping Stars defenceman Jordie Benn of the puck along the left wing boards, Santorelli promptly found an open Kadri in the middle of the ice, Kadri wiring a lethal shot under the crossbar past Kari Lehtonen.

“He works hard, he’s pretty tenacious on the puck,” said Kadri of Santorelli, who earned a career high three assists on the night. “He likes to handle it too, he’s got pretty good vision and speed. I think it all works out with each other.”

The Leafs have been guilty of poor starts in more than a few games, but against Dallas they were able to turn the tables in their favour. Tyler Bozak found the back of the net just 27 seconds after the opening faceoff. Toronto has a remarkable 10-0-0 record when scoring the first goal of the game this season.

“It was nice to start like that,” said Bozak. “But I think Naz’s line should get a lot of credit for tonight. They played a heck of a game, and pretty much won the game for us. Santorelli has been an incredible addition to our team. When he gets down low, he’s one of those guys that’s pretty hard to get the puck from. I think he’s a dynamic player that can play anywhere in the lineup.”

Lupul had a pair of goals, and now has three in as many games since returning from injury. Phil Kessel had the other Leafs marker, as he and Bozak are now tied for the team lead with 12 goals each.

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle cautioned against feeling too good about the victory showing an aversion to firewagon hockey. “We’re going to take the two points, but we can’t be happy with the sloppiness of the play. We cannot continue to play that style of the game and think that we’re going to have success,” Carlyle said.

Toronto outshot Dallas 40-38 with goaltender Jonathan Bernier getting the win in net.

Leafs lines:
van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel
Lupul-Kadri- Santorelli
Winnik-Holland-Clarkson
Booth-Smith-Panik

Defence pairings:
Phaneuf-Franson
Rielly-Robidas
Gardiner-Holzer

Starter: Bernier
Backup: Reimer

Attendance: 19,021

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

Follow TMLfans.ca on Twitter: @Rob_DelMundo