Auston Matthews made his triumphant return to the Leafs’ lineup, scoring twice and adding an assist in Toronto’s 5-3 win over San Jose on Wednesday. Matthews had been out of action since October 27 with a shoulder injury, missing 14 games. He was placed on a line with Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, one of the speediest trios that the Leafs have ever assembled.

The Good

  • The Leafs scored three power play goals agains the Sharks, who had entered the game with the top-rated penalty kill in the NHL.
  • Toronto’s goals with the man advantage all came within the first minute of the power play: by John Tavares (45 seconds), Matthews (17 seconds) and Patrick Marleau (59 seconds).
  • Mitch Marner had three assists, all in the first period to give him 30 helpers on the season.
  • Marner’s third assist came on a rush in which he broke his stick, skated by the Leafs bench to collect a new one from trainer Bobby Hastings, and then passed off to Tavares for the latter’s second goal of the game.
  • Marleau’s goal was his first against his former team in four outings. The former long-time Shark has now scored against all 31 teams in the league.
  • Travis Dermott had a strong outing. On a play in which he broke his stick at the San Jose blue line, the defenceman had a solid back check, negating a breakaway by Evander Kane.

The Bad

  • Toronto was under siege for much of the last two periods of the game, playing rather passively in protecting the lead.
  • The Leafs surrendered a pair of power play goals in three opportunities. Ron Hainsey’s shortcomings in attempting to clear the puck were once again exposed.
  • Nazem Kadri was snake-bitten again, hitting the goal post on a breakaway (see also: Monday night, vs. Boston.)

The Ugly

  • A potentially dangerous play occurred when Johnsson was checked into an open gate at the Sharks’ bench. Brian Burke has long opined that opening the gate should not be allowed during play. Hard to argue against the point.

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

In 2016, Rob wrote “Hockey’s Enforcers: A Dying Breed”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.