TORONTO - Mitch Marner looked at two things as he took his turn in the shootout. First, he had to get the puck under control as it skidded and bounced on the choppy Air Canada Centre ice. Then he peered into the face of Golden Knights goaltender Maxime Lagace.
Marner skated out wide before cutting in toward the net, getting Lagace to commit with a deke before tucking the puck into the net to lead the Maple Leafs in a 4-3 victory over Vegas on Monday night after Toronto blew a two-goal lead.
"Just trying to take a look at the puck and calm it down then look at the goalie to go eye-to-eye and see what he's going to react to," said Marner on his shootout approach. "It stayed on my stick fortunately and didn't bounce away."
Nazem Kadri had a pair of goals in regulation time for Toronto (9-7-0) and James van Riemsdyk also scored as the Maple Leafs built a 3-1 lead by the first intermission.
Kadri has confidence in Marner's shootout abilities, but he also noticed that the ice had been chewed up from the third period and the back-and-forth of three-on-three overtime.
"He's pretty money. He's got great hands, he can score, skill player, so he's kinda made for that," said Kadri. "I saw the puck rolling on him a little bit to begin with and I got a little nervous for him but he stayed pretty composed and he made it look effortless."
Frederik Andersen made 22 saves for the win, redeeming himself after allowing a disappointing goal to Deryk Engelland in the third period. James Neal and Reilly Smith also found the back of the net for Vegas (9-4-1). Lagace turned aside 25 shots.
The win was a much-needed boost for a Maple Leafs team that had dropped five of its past six games — including three losses on a four-game road trip — after starting the year with a 7-1 record.
"Obviously, (giving up a lead) is not something we want to do later down the road, but right now it's a character win to come back and do that," said Marner, who also noted that Andersen stopped all three skaters he faced in the shootout. "We're happy about this win and now it's time to build and get ready for the next one."
Kadri opened scoring early in the first on a power play, snapping in a rebound from the slot. Vegas replied less than a minute LATER with a fluky goal. A long shot in deflected off Neal's skate as he tussled with a Leafs defender and bounced in past Andersen.
Van Riemsdyk restored Toronto's lead on the power play near the midway point of the first, but Auston Matthews did all the heavy lifting on the play.
Carrying the puck down the right wing, Matthews spun around Vegas defenceman Luca Sbisa and drove to the net, getting a shot on Lagace. The rebound came to van Riemsdyk's stick and he made it 2-1.
Matthews had left the morning skate early and was a game-time decision with what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock described as "soreness."
"I knew in the morning that I'd play," said Matthews. "I just wanted to get out there and see how I felt. I felt fine, felt good enough to play."
Kadri scored his second of the night with 4:57 left in the opening period. Standing in the slot with his back to the net, he took a cross-ice feed from Patrick Marleau, put the puck on his backhand and shot it past Lagace as he fell to his knees.
Although the Maple Leafs kept the Golden Knights scoreless for a lengthy two-man advantage in the second, they couldn't hold them off later in the period with Matthews off for tripping. Smith cut into Toronto's lead with just over a minute to go in the middle period, rifling in a rebound on the power play.
Engelland tied it 3-3 for Vegas 6:16 into the third period, wiring a wrist shot into the far corner of the net over Andersen's shoulder to force the extra period.
Notes: Announced attendance was 19,398. .... Toronto FC players Alex Bono and Jay Chapman were in the crowd a day after the Major League Soccer club advanced to the Eastern Conference final.
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