The Maple Leafs extended their win streak to three games with a convincing 6-3 triumph over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. Mitch Marner had a career-high five points in the outing, continuing to flourish with newly-assigned linemates Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau.
“I think we all have a lot of speed and created a lot of chances off turnovers from their D-men,” Marner said. “I think that’s what we tried to do off the start tonight. It worked well.”
Indeed since Marner was inserted onto Kadri’s line in place of Leo Komarov, the move has been a catalyst for a boost in production. Over the past eight games since the lineup shuffle, Marner has collected 6 goals and 4 assists for 10 points – 1.25 points per game.
The goal total over this stretch equals Marner’s total over the first 49 games of the season, sans Kadri’s presence (6 goals, 26 assists, 32 points – 0.65 points per game.
“When you haven’t scored it’s good to get going and feeling good about yourself again. It was a good night for those guys, they play against good players and they played well,” coach Mike Babcock said when assessing the trio’s chemistry.
Marner opened the scoring after pouncing on a turnover by Johnny Oduya just 1:55 into the game.
Not to be outdone by their young teammate, Auston Matthews and William Nylander connected for a highlight-reel tally, Nylander with a creative backhand pass to Matthews in the slot that the latter converted into a goal with a perfect, laser-quick snipe into the top corner of the net past Craig Anderson.
Marner finished off a cross-ice pass from Marleau to put the Leafs up 3-0 on just their tenth shot of the game, forcing Anderson from the Senators goal in favour of Mike Condon at the 11:30 mark of the first period.
Oduya atoned for his earlier turnover to get the Senators on the board in the middle frame. Toronto re-claimed its three-goal cushion on a power play when Marner fired a high shot that glanced off James van Riemsdyk into the goal.
At first it appeared that the puck deflected off Ottawa defenceman Cody Ceci, which would have given Marner his first career hat trick, but replays clearly confirmed that the tally belonged to JVR.
Marner collected assists in the third period; negating an icing and finding Kadri for the Leafs’ fifth goal, then dishing off to Marleau for an empty-netter to round out the scoring.
Frederik Andersen made 22 saves for the victory.
“I think in general our whole line was just moving the puck well, we were getting open for each other and talking a lot,” Marner said.