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Game Centre: Maple Leafs shake off sluggish start, rally for victory over Columbus Blue Jackets

Game Centre: Maple Leafs shake off sluggish start, rally for victory over Columbus Blue Jackets
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What was most important in the Maple Leafs’ 4-2 win over Columbus on Monday at Scotiabank Arena was the fact the Leafs not only overcame a dismal first period, but lived up to a pointed talk they had on the weekend about their record on home ice.

That home record, now 6-5-0, pales in comparison to their 9-1-0 mark on the road. For a team that has elite status in the NHL, their home record stings — only two other teams have won fewer games on home ice this season.

And the talk, held Sunday prior to practice and the team’s Easter Seals skate, also included discussion on a pet peeve associated with the home record; that Toronto has experienced letdown games in the first home game back from a long road trip.

Monday’s game was such a game, and after getting outshot 14-6 in the first period and outscored 2-0, Toronto rebounded with four unanswered goals for the win.

That kind of a comeback holds immeasurable value for the team’s confidence levels. Toronto continues to feel like it can win, even after a subpar effort at some point in the game.

“You’d love to start every game the way they (Columbus) did, but sometimes you gotta calm down and see there’s a lot of hockey left to play,” Leafs centre John Tavares said.

“It showed the maturity of the team. Seeing we wouldn’t flip the game all in one shift, so just keep plugging away, shift by shift, and find a way to win in the next shift.”

Andersen MVP: Toronto had some standout efforts on Monday night.

Tyler Ennis got them on the board with some great skating and puck work behind the net before coming out and slipping a low shot in to cut the lead to 2-1.

Tavares slamming in a pass from Marner — who was magical on the play, deking a defender, getting a backhand shot away, then tipping the rebound back into the slot where Tavares had beaten all-star defenceman Zach Werenski for positioning on the puck.

Toronto’s Zach — Zach Hyman — had a tip-in goal and added an empty netter.

But the star of this game was goalie Freddie Andersen, and we’ll let the players explain it away:

“Freddie’s the MVP of this team,” Marner said. “He expects to be the best every night and that’s what you want out of a player and a teammate. And he’s been nothing short of that.”

That’s a huge compliment on a team with a number of standouts who should get all-star consideration (Marner, Tavares, Rielly, Matthews, Hyman).

As good as it gets: What can you say, but “wow” on the Marner-Tavares goal.

Talking up Ennis: Funny thing in the post game dressing room: Leafs players wanted to talk as much about Ennis’ personality off the ice as his play on the ice.

“He’s brought a lot. He’s an unbelievable guy in this room,” Marner said.

“Outside this rink he’s an unbelievable guy as well. On the ice, he’s got a lot of skill. He is very good at making time and space for himself and making plays. It’s been a lot of fun playing with him in this locker room and he just keeps getting better and better.

“I think our team never gives up in here and that’s something special,” Marner added.

“That’s something we need to make sure we keep going forward with but at the same time we’ve got to come out ready to play more. It’s starts with (Ennis)’ goal. I mean that’s a hell of an effort by him and a hell of a play by him. “

Ennis hit a post — off a wicked slap shot — in the first period. His spin-around goal in the second finally gave him a reward that was a long time coming.

https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs/status/1064694194885791744

Blue collar hero: Hyman scored off a slap-pass from Rielly, and into an empty net.

The first goal was his first 5-on-5 goal of the season. He now has three overall, with his first coming short-handed. Hyman, though, has added another asset to his skill package — faceoffs.

He won the faceoff on his tip-in goal, a payoff for work he did in the summer.

A penalty kill specialist, Hyman is taking right side faceoffs on the penalty kill, something the Leafs earmarked for him in the off season.

“I won the draw to John (Tavares) and John made a great play to give it to Morgan [Rielly] and kind of take two guys with him and I was left alone in front of the net and lucky Mo saw it and made a great play and I was able to tip it,” Hyman said.

Solid effort: That third line — featuring Par Lindholm at centre between Andreas Johnsson and Connor Brown — had a couple of great shifts in the second period. Tavares’ goal came right after that, and while nothing on the scoresheet will reflect what the third line did, everyone in the dressing room noticed.

Lindholm has been quietly impressive, with his faceoff work and defensive positioning this season.

Monday night saw him win 10-of-15 draws against Columbus top centre Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Leafs coach Mike Babcock gave the line the opening faceoff in each of the second and third periods — a direct reflection of the fact the line was the best overall line the Leafs had in this game.

Some things to consider: The Leafs are now 9-2-0 when outshot by their opponent

They are 6-0-0 when the opponent scores the game’s first goal

This game was penalty free — Toronto’s first such game since Feb. 28, 2013 (vs. the Islanders.)
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