Marleau pushes Leafs past Ducks
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Toronto Maple Leafs had lost three straight and four of their past five games, so coach Mike Babcock decided it was time to tinker with his line combinations.
Babcock moved veteran Patrick Marleau from the wing to center Wednesday, and the change paid immediate dividends. Marleau’s goal at 1:09 of the third period, his fifth of the season, was the winner in Toronto’s 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
It was the 38-year-old veteran’s 100th career game-winning goal.
“He is such a smart player. He probably has more game-winning goals than most guys have goals,” Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk said.
Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen, who began his career with Anaheim, made 28 saves in the victory. It was Andersen’s first start at Honda Center as a member of the Maple Leafs.
“It feels nice to beat (Anaheim),” he said. “More importantly, it was great for us to get a win and get back on a winning track.”
Defenseman Ron Hainsey added a pair of assists for Toronto (8-5-0). Hainsey’s biggest contribution was being a major factor in killing off all four of Toronto’s penalties. The veteran was on the ice for all but 22 seconds of the eight minutes of penalty-kill time.
“He plays the right way, and he’s such a smart player,” Babcock said.
The Ducks (6-5-1) came close to tying the game with 98 seconds left, but Jakob Silfverberg’s goal was disallowed -- ruled to be knocked into the net with a distinct kicking motion.
“It looked like he turned his foot, so the referee felt he directed the puck with a kicking motion. If that’s the way he deemed it, then it’s no goal,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “As far as we are concerned, you can turn your foot, but I don’t know if that deems it a distinct kicking motion.”
The Ducks will look back on this game and point to numerous missed opportunities. They failed on the power play. They have the 31st-ranked power play at home (3.7 percent), having scored just one time with the man advantage in 27 opportunities.
“We have to build from this. We can’t be satisfied from not scoring goals,” Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm said. “We have to work even harder and get those posts and in instead of posts and out.”
The Maple Leafs opened the scoring at 7:54 of the first period as Connor Brown converted van Riemsdyk’s tape-to-tape pass and put it between the legs of goalie John Gibson (26 saves). It was Brown’s fourth goal of the season. Hainsey also registered an assist on the play.
“Obviously, it’s trying to find the right moment to pass it,” van Riemsdyk said. “I just tried to slide one through to him, and he made a great finish.”
Toronto’s lead was short-lived. Just 75 seconds later, Ondrej Kase’s centering pass went off the skate of Toronto defenseman Andreas Borgman and past Andersen. It was Kase’s fifth goal of the season. Derek Grant and Josh Manson earned assists on the goal.
Leo Komarov added an empty-net goal, his second score of the season, at 18:30 of the third period to seal the victory for the Maple Leafs. Gibson was trying to get to the bench for an extra attacker and then unsuccessfully scrambled back to the Ducks’ net to try to stop the shot by Komarov. Marleau had the only assist on the goal.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs’ 21 first-period goals lead the NHL. ... Toronto scratched C Dominic Moore, RW Kasperi Kapanen and D Roman Polak. ... Toronto still has two games remaining on their four-game trip, with visits to Los Angeles on Thursday and St. Louis on Saturday. ... Anaheim placed C Ryan Getzlaf (facial injury) on injured reserve. ... The Ducks began a stretch on Wednesday of playing 12 consecutive games in California, including nine at home. ... Anaheim recalled C Kalle Kossila and scratched G Reto Berra, D Korbinian Holzer and RW Jared Boll.