TORONTO — Mitch Marner’s linemates know that at any moment he can create a scoring chance. Tuesday he seemed to do it every time he touched the puck.
Marner set a new career high for points in a game with a goal and three assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Carolina Hurricanes 8-1 in a rare afternoon tilt.
“He’s got that confidence going right now,” said forward James van Riemsdyk, who scored his team-leading 16th goal of the season with Marner earning the assist.
“He’s a guy that wants to be successful and produce, takes pride in that,” he added. “He’s always making good plays and passes and me and (Tyler) Bozak are on the end of those.”
Marner had a goal and two assists in the first period alone against Carolina, also setting up Bozak as Toronto took a 4-1 lead into the first intermission. He picked up his fourth point of the night in the third on a Patrick Marleau goal.
“Just felt like I was skating, whole line in general,” said Marner. ”If we want to be successful that’s what we have to do.”
“Him getting that goal helped get his confidence back and he’s a really good player when he’s confident. Fun to play with him,” added Bozak.
Tuesday’s 2 p.m. ET start was scheduled by the league to kick off the second century of NHL hockey. The first NHL games were played on Dec. 19, 1917, including a 10-9 win by the Montreal Wanderers over Toronto.
The Maple Leafs faced Carolina in commemorative jerseys with “Arenas,” an early name for the team, on the front.
Leo Komarov, Kasperi Kapanen, William Nylander and Connor Carrick also scored for the Leafs (21-13-1), who snapped a three-game slide.
Frederik Andersen made 32 saves for the win while Bozak matched Marner by adding three assists.
Jeff Skinner scored for the Hurricanes (14-12-7) as Scott Darling stopped 27 shots in defeat.
“They were better in every area, their special teams set the tone early. Some of the plays and decisions we made with the puck were less than perfect…they were quicker than us and it showed,” said Carolina coach Bill Peters.
“We looked like a mentally fatigued team.”
Toronto was playing its fifth straight game without star centre Auston Matthews because of an upper-body injury.
The Leafs offence had mustered just four goals in their last four games before exploding against the Hurricanes.
“We got a scouting report on every goalie but you’d think we didn’t have one for the last month, sometimes the puck goes in and sometimes it doesn’t,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock.
A turnover at the Leafs blue line turned into Toronto’s first short-handed goal of the season, as Komarov chose to keep the puck in transition on a 2-on-1 and beat Darling upstairs 2:52 into the game.
It didn’t take long for the Leafs to double their lead as Marner skated over the Carolina blue line on a power play and beat Darling with a wrist shot from the top of the circle at 5:33, ending a 15-game goal drought.
Skinner cut Toronto’s lead in half with a knuckler at 9:07 that eluded Andersen, but van Riemsdyk restored the two-goal lead for the Leafs just 1:27 later, putting home a rebound with the man advantage.
Marner kept on coming and created Bozak’s goal to make it 4-1 at 13:28.
The second period belonged to Andersen, who came up big more than once to keep Toronto ahead.
First he made a highlight-reel save midway through the period, sprawling out and getting the paddle down on Skinner to keep it a 4-1 game despite being tangled up with a Carolina skater at the same time.
Then he went post to post to stop a one-timer from Elias Lindholm with two minutes to go.
Marner set his new career high for points in a game when he assisted on Marleau’s goal at 9:25 of the third, then Kapanen added his second goal of the season only six seconds later to make it a five-goal cushion for the Leafs.
Nylander scored with a snap shot glove side on Darling with just under six minutes to play, while Carrick added a power-play goal with 1:27 to go.
“This one’s just embarrassing, at least if you get to (overtime) you can say you showed up and put forth a good effort,” said Hurricanes defenceman Justin Faulk. ”Sure hope we can move on fast.”