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Core Four Forceful In Win Over Stars; New Leafs Convo

February 8, 2024, 7:34 PM ET [99 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs winning formula was on full display in a wildly entertaining 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday. Not to be overly simplistic, but when the core four shows up, the Leafs usually emerge on the winning side.

That occurred in the contest, as all members of Toronto’s top echelon; Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares scored a goal, and William Nylander scored twice, in his best performance since signing his contract extension.

The Leafs recovered from a first period laden with giveaways and mistakes, scoring a pair of power-play goals to take a 3-2 lead, and after Evgeny Dadonov tied the game on a penalty shot, Toronto responded with a pair of goals 20 seconds apart to seize momentum back in the contest. The Leafs needed all the offense they got in the game, as Ilya Samsonov was shaky at times (allowing four goals on 31 shots) and the fourth line was responsible for a turnover on Dadonov’s first-period goal, before playing with more effectiveness in the second and third period.

The most encouraging sign for the club was their stepping up physically in the third period after former Leaf Mason Marchment took a run at Jake McCabe (a hit that resulted in a $5.000 fine for Marchment from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday). The high hit resulted in McCabe wearing the “Crimson Shroud” to catch the attention of the officials at the end of the period and Keefe chastising them. It also initiated a spark and some pushback from McCabe and defenseman Simon Benoit in the third.

“Jake is an absolute competitor. For him in that moment to not lose his cool, and not lose his cool for the remainder of the game… There were some confrontations between him and Marchment in the third period. Jake was hard on him and the team was hard on Marchment the rest of the way.” Keefe said. “I think Jake asked him for a fight. The fight didn’t happen, obviously. He kept his cool and didn’t hurt the team. As we are learning or have learned, Jake is an absolute competitor and warrior.”

With the win, the Leafs moved into third place in the Atlantic, one point ahead of Tampa Bay.


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