Marner's four-point effort leads Leafs' thumping of Sharks
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe says his squad has found its groove.
Mitch Marner had two goals and two assists as the Maple Leafs earned an emphatic fourth straight win, 7-1 over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. The win streak comes on the heels of a three-game skid, with Toronto also snapping its three-game home losing skid on Tuesday.
"What we've always known we're capable of," Keefe said regarding what he's learned of his team in the past couple of weeks. "We've just found a groove.
"Things just kind of snap into place over 82 games. You snap into one of these stretches, things are going good, you're in a groove and you get some stretches where you just can't quite get it out of sorts."
Marner surpassed Frank Mahovlich for seventh on the Leafs' all-time scoring list with 598 points.
"Obviously it's cool," Marner said. "I've been saying it to you guys for seven or eight years now that obviously I grew up in this area, grew up wearing these jerseys as a fan.
"To have your name with some of the greats, it's … a cool moment to enjoy and kind of sit back and just really take it in."
Morgan Rielly, Auston Matthews, Pontus Holmberg, Jake McCabe and Nick Robertson also scored for Toronto (21-10-7). William Nylander contributed three assists, with McCabe dishing out two and Rielly adding one as well.
Martin Jones made 22 saves in front of 18,364 at Scotiabank Arena. It was the Leafs' first home game of 2024 after a three-game road trip, where they outscored their opponents 9-2.
"It's just been a focus of ours," Rielly said of the team's recent defensive performances in 5-on-5 play. "Up until the Christmas break, I don't think we were playing that well defensively and even though we came back after the break and we lost all three games … we made strides.
"That was our focus on the road trip, just to keep that trend going. I think we managed to do a pretty good job."
Henry Thrun had the lone marker for San Jose (9-29-3), which had its losing streak extended to 12 games.
Kaapo Kahkonen surrendered four goals on 20 shots, while Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 22-of-25 shots in relief.
"Arguably our worst game of the year, from start to finish, every facet of the game, really," Sharks head coach David Quinn said. "Not one guy really had their game tonight and it certainly showed.
"As I said after the game Saturday night (4-1 loss to Toronto), we felt good going into the game. I know, we're not winning hockey games, but we felt really good about our effort and compete.
"Losing is hard. … It wears on you. Unless you're going through it, it's difficult to explain it to anybody."
Rielly opened the scoring with 3:12 left in the first period. Nylander found an open Rielly in the slot, and he fired it past Kahkonen.
Matthews doubled the lead 34 seconds later on the power play. He blasted in a one-timer on a dish from Marner.
Marner joined the party 54 seconds into the second period. While being pushed away from the net by Mario Ferraro, Marner was able to tip in a point shot by McCabe.
Holmberg made it 4-0 just over a minute later. He was sent into the offensive zone by Bobby McMann, and while holding off Kyle Burroughs with his left arm, Holmberg beat Kahkonen with a shot using just his right arm.
Kahkonen was pulled immediately after and replaced by Blackwood with 17:54 remaining in the frame.
Thrun put the Sharks on the board 7:21 into the second on the power play, redirecting Mikael Granlund's shot.
McCabe furthered Toronto's edge at 1:27 of the third period. He fired in a one-timer on a backhand feed from Marner.
Marner netted his second four minutes into the frame on the power play, tipping in a loose puck in front off a rebound.
Robertson stretched the lead at 5:54 on the power play. Robertson fired it past Blackwood on a feed from Matthew Knies.
Maple Leafs: Head to New York to play the Islanders Thursday.
Sharks: Travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2023.