On an afternoon when the Leafs honoured the 100th anniversary of the first ever NHL games played, the sellout crowd at Air Canada Centre was treated an offensive showcase from the home team.
The Maple Leafs ended their three-game losing slide with authority, staging an 8-1 demolition of the Carolina Hurricanes. The unorthodox 2pm start time was scheduled in recognition of the practice that was in place, one hundred years ago, when the Toronto Arenas played the Montreal Wanderers on the NHL’s opening night.
“I thought it was awesome. I wish we had some more day games,” Tyler Bozak said.
Bozak and his linemates, James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner each scored once, combining for three goals and eight assists. The outing was especially rewarding for Marner, who had been mired in a 15-game goal drought prior to Tuesday’s action.
Marner broke out of his slump with a career high four-point night (one goal and three assists). His power play goal in the first period was just his third tally of the year, but he saved his highlight reel play for later in the frame. The diminutive forward befuddled the Carolina defenceman with some deft stickhandling in the Carolina zone before dishing off to Bozak for the Leafs’ fourth goal of the afternoon.
“I think (Marner) getting that goal got his confidence back,” Bozak said. “He’s obviously a really good player when he’s confident. It was nice to see him have that back – that game – and it was fun to play with him. I’d expect a lot more of that for the rest of the way now.”
Leo Komarov started the offensive barrage 2:52 into the game, converting on a 2-on-1 for the Leafs’ first shorthanded goal of the year. Marner, van Riemsdyk (on a power play) and Bozak also found the net in the opening twenty minutes. The only blemish for Toronto was a miscue by Frederik Andersen on a seemingly routine shot by Jeff Skinner.
Andersen atoned for the flub a period later when, appearing to be helplessly lying on his back on the play, he foiled Skinner with a tremendous stick save.
The second period was scoreless before the floodgates opened in the final frame. Patrick Marleau collected his 12th goal of the year after potting his own rebound, from behind the net, banking the puck off the leg of Carolina defender Justin Faulk. On the enusing faceoff, Kasperi Kapanen carried the puck off the draw and streaked down the middle of the ice, wiring the puck past Scott Darling just six seconds after Marleau’s goal.
William Nylander and Connor Carrick rounded out the Leafs’ scoring.
Three Leafs ended extended their respective goal droughts. In addition to Marner’s 15-game slump coming to an end, Komarov halted an eight-game slide, and Nylander put the brakes on a seven-game skid.
“You can just tell by the energy that goes in their body If you’re a goal scorer and you haven’t scored in a long time, it starts weighing on you,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t care what anyone says, you’re a young person, you can’t help it, you’ve got to look at [their phones]. You get used to getting beat on.”
Auston Matthews missed his fifth straight game for Toronto. Babcock indicated that Matthews will travel with the team for Wednesday’s game in Columbus, and that Curtis McElhinney will start in net.
Later in the day, Christina Marleau – wife of Patrick – tweet this picture of their ‘boys’:
— Christina Marleau (@c_marleau) December 19, 2017
In 2016, Rob wrote “Hockey’s Enforcers: A Dying Breed”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.