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McMann registers first NHL hat trick as short-handed Leafs beat Blues


TORONTO — Sheldon Keefe hoped the absence of the Maple Leafs' No. 1 defenceman would get the group's attention.

When it also became clear in the hours before puck drop two of Toronto's other stars would also be sidelined, the head coach knew even tighter focus was required against one of the NHL's hottest teams.

Bobby McMann — unaware when he arrived at the rink for Tuesday's morning skate he'd be suiting up — and the rest of the roster responded in impressive fashion.

The 27-year-old winger registered the first hat trick of his NHL career as the short-handed Leafs defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-1.

"We needed guys to step up in different ways," Keefe said. "We had a lot of great efforts."

Toronto needed each and every one.

The league's department of player safety announced shortly before the opening faceoff it had suspended Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly five games for his cross-check to the head of Ridly Greig following the Ottawa centre's slapshot empty-net goal in the dying seconds of the Senators' 5-3 victory Saturday.

Already without its minute-munching blueliner, Toronto also hit the Scotiabank Arena ice minus forwards Mitch Marner and John Tavares — both officially ruled out because of illness just before warmups.

"Anticipated that I was going to be out tonight based on the lineup at (Monday's) practice," McMann said. "You never know when you're gonna be called upon."

The undrafted Wainwright, Alta., product has shown offensive flair at lower levels, but it had been a challenge in the NHL through his first 36 games, especially on a team where he's battling for time further down the lineup.

"You gotta enjoy the moments as they come, whether it's your first goal or your first game," McMann, who had scored twice in the NHL before Tuesday, said of his journey. "As you get more comfortable, you can try more things. You get a little bit more ice time, a little bit more trust with the coach.

"And then you just keep working."

William Nylander had the other goal for Toronto (27-16-8). Ilya Samsonov made 14 saves.

Alexey Toropchenko replied for St. Louis (28-22-2), which entered 7-1-0 over its last eight, including Sunday's 7-2 demolition of the Montreal Canadiens. Jordan Binnington stopped 28 shots.

"Just weren't skating enough and supporting each other enough," Blues captain Brayden Schenn said. "We know we have to be a whole lot better."

Toronto — 14-2-1 without Rielly in 2022-23 — opened the scoring at 5:33 of the first period when McMann fought off Schenn before driving to Binnington's crease and stuffing home his third goal of the season.

Down about US$30 million in salary cap space with Rielly, Marner and Tavares unavailable, the Leafs doubled their lead at 16:25 when Nylander's pass hit the stick of St. Louis rookie defenceman Matthew Kessel for the winger's 26th.

The Blues cut the deficit to 2-1 at 5:36 of the second when Toropchenko tipped in his ninth. Kessel picked up the secondary assist for the blueliner's first NHL point in his 19th game.

Without a goal in straight 17 contests entering play, Leafs winger Tyler Bertuzzi hit the post moments later after getting stopped on a first-period break.

Bertuzzi then missed the net from the slot on a third-period power play, but McMann scored his second of the evening — and fourth overall to double his career total — at 8:02 when roofed a shot upstairs to make it 3-1 on a night where the Leafs needed their depth players to step up.

"Different players figure it out at different times," Keefe said. "He's 27 years old and in his first year in the NHL. He's trying to find his way with it, and a role here."

McMann then completed the hat trick late in regulation when his clearing attempt off the boards in the defensive zone found the Blues' empty net with a weight that would make any curler smile.

"Two huge goals for us and a cool empty netter to finish it off," Keefe said. "Terrific end to a strange day for us."


Leafs centre David Kampf and defenceman Mark Giordano returned to the lineup after recovering from undisclosed injuries. Kampf missed three games last week, while Giordano sat out Saturday's loss.

Apart from the absences of Marner and Tavares, Keefe announced before the game blueliner Conor Timmins (mononucleosis) is out indefinitely. Toronto goaltender Martin Jones sat out with an undisclosed injury.

Marlies netminder Dennis Hildeby and forward Alex Steeves were both called up on an emergency basis.

Keefe said post-game the team doesn't believe the Marner and Tavares absences are related to the Timmins situation.


Toronto hosts Philadelphia on Thursday. St. Louis returns home to face Edmonton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2024.


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