Connor Brown set a career-high with four points and Mitch Marner scored another impressive goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs spoiled James Reimer’s first start as an Air Canada Centre foe.
Brown scored two goals and added two assists in the 6-1 win over Reimer’s Florida Panthers (8-8-1). Leo Komarov, James van Riemsdyk and Jake Gardiner also added tallies in Toronto’s seventh victory in nine tries at home (7-2-0), Nazem Kadri chipping in with a pair of assists.
Frederik Andersen stopped 26 shots, improving to 6-2-0 in November for Toronto (8-6-3).
Aaron Ekblad scored the lone goal for Florida, Reimer pegged for six goals on 30 shots in his first start in Toronto as a member of the opposition. A former fourth round pick of the Leafs, he played more than 200 games with the club over six seasons.
His former team got to him quick, popping three by in the opening frame, including a pair by Brown.
The 22-year-old Brown got his third career NHL goal when he deflected an innocent-looking Morgan Rielly point shot past a surprised Reimer nearly six minutes into the first. The goal was initially ruled off on account of a high stick, but was later overturned on video review.
After Ekblad evened the score at 1-1 with only his fourth point of the season (all goals), Brown scored again. This time, he eluded a check along the boards by Ekblad, continued a hard drive down the right side of the ice and then flung a shot on goal as he avoided a diving Jason Demers. Brown crashed into the boards and popped up with a visor full of snow after the shot beat Reimer, who was taken aback by the goal once more.
Signed for five years and US$17 million this past summer, Reimer has been just OK with a 2-3-1 record in his first seven games with Florida.
Arguably Toronto’s top rookie all season and especially of late, Marner padded the lead to two with maybe the most impressive goal of the Leafs season. Gaining control of the puck just inside the Florida blueline, Marner gained a step on defenceman
Michael Matheson and then made a series of dekes to beat Reimer.
He was still fighting off the advances of Matheson prior to scoring, waiting until the last possible moment to slide the puck from backhand to forehand, tucking it just around the left pad of the Panthers goaltender.
Marner now has six goals and 10 points in his last seven games, trailing only Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine in rookie scoring (16 points).
Brown added his third point when he lofted a pass to Komarov on a Toronto rush, the Finnish winger flipping a shot past Reimer for the 4-1 lead. He notched his fourth point on Gardiner’s third of the year late in the final frame.
Brown’s previous career-high of three points also came against Florida late last season.
The line of Brown, Komarov and Kadri not only managed to score a bunch but shut down the Panthers top unit, which features Aleksander Barkov and 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr.
Van Riemsdyk, coming off his first hat trick as a Leaf on Tuesday, potted the Leafs fifth goal late in the second frame. He picked off a flubbed pass by Dylan McIlrath in the Florida zone and beat Reimer.
Van Riemsdyk has a team-leading eight goals and 17 points on the year.
If landing a few quality chances in the win, Auston Matthews remained without a goal for the 11th consecutive game. The 19-year-old has only two assists in that span.
– via The Canadian Press