Toronto Maple Leafs come back to beat Carolina Hurricanes 8-6

Jason Spezza opened the scoring for the Maple Leafs at 0:30 of the first period and later registered the primary assist on John Tavares’ first period goal. Spezza’s goal is the fastest goal to open a game by the Maple Leafs this season (Previous: 0:40; Oct. 29, 2019 vs WSH (Johnsson)). Tonight’s game is his third multi-point performance of the season. The goal is his first on home ice.

William Nylander scored Toronto’s second goal of the game on the power play at 3:40 of the first period. Nylander has five points (3-2-5) over his last three games played. He has 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists) in 11 games against Metropolitan Division teams in 2019-20.

John Tavares registered the primary assist on Spezza’s first period goal and the primary assist on Nylander’s second period goal before scoring the third Maple Leafs goal of the night on the power play at 5:10 of the first period. Today’s game is Tavares’ second multi-assist and 10th multi-point game of the season. He has nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 10 games during the month of December.

Auston Matthews scored the fourth Toronto goal of the game at 2:35 of the third period and later registered the primary assist on Mitch Marner’s first third period goal. Matthews has points (5-4-9) in four consecutive games. Tonight’s game is Matthews’ 14th multi-point game of the season. In 18 games on home ice this season, he has recorded 28 points (18 goals, 10 assists). He is tied for the NHL lead in even-strength goals (18).

Mitch Marner had the secondary assist on Nylander’s first period goal and later had the secondary assist on Matthews’ third period goal. Marner scored the fifth Maple Leaf goal of the night at 11:01 of the third period before recording the primary assist on Tyson Barrie’s third period goal. He added the seventh Maple Leaf goal of the game at 12:00 of the third period. Marner has points (6-11-15) in eight consecutive games. Tonight’s game is his third multi-goal game, his seventh multi-assist game and his 10th multi-point game of the season. He has 17 assists in 16 games on home ice this season. Marner tied his career-high for goals (2 – 7x), assists (3 – 12x) and points (5 – 2x).

Tyson Barrie collected the secondary assist on Marner’s first goal in the third period before scoring the sixth Toronto goal of the game at 11:54 of the third period. Tonight’s game is his sixth multi-point game of the season. Barrie’s goal is his first on home ice this season. He has five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in 10 games during the month of December.

Pierre Engvall scored the eighth Toronto goal of the game into an empty net at 18:20 of the third period. Engvall has four points (2-2-4) over his last five games played. The Maple Leafs are 6-0-0 when Engvall records a point this season.

Ilya Mikheyev collected the secondary assist on Spezza’s first period goal. Mikheyev has five points (3 goals, 2 assists) over his last four games played. He has 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) in 24 games against Eastern Conference opponents.

Alex Kerfoot picked up the secondary assist on Tavares’ first period goal. Kerfoot has four points (1-3-4) over his last five games played.

Zach Hyman registered the primary assist on Matthews’ third period goal and later had the secondary assist on Barrie’s third period goal before collecting the lone assist on Engvall’s third period goal. Hyman has points (2-4-6) in two consecutive games. Tonight’s game is his first multi-assist and third multi-point game of the season. His three assists establish a new career-high for assists in a game and tie his career-high for points in a game (3x).

Frederik Andersen stopped 35 shots to earn his 19th win of the season. 

SHOTS ON GOAL (5-on-5 in brackets)








16 (11)

14 (9)

11 (9)

41 (29)


12 (10)

8 (6)

19 (18)

39 (34)







SHOT ATTEMPTS (5-on-5 in brackets)








23 (16)

25 (17)

18 (11)

66 (44)


20 (15)

18 (15)

25 (24)

63 (54)




Record at Home

10-4-4 (18 Games)

All-Time Record vs. Carolina

47-58-11-7 (123 Games)

All-Time Record vs. Carolina at Home:

24-31-5-2 (62 Games)

Record vs. Eastern Conference

11-9-4 (24 Games)

Record vs. Metropolitan Division

4-4-3 (11 Games)






4 (Barrie, Marner, Tavares)

Shot Attempts

8 (Marner)

Faceoff Wins

13 (Tavares)

Faceoff Win Percentage

68% (Tavares – 13 won, 6 lost)


2 (Muzzin)

Blocked Shots

3 (Muzzin)


2 (Marner, Matthews, Spezza)


24:36 (Marner)

Power Play TOI

4:55 (Nylander, Tavares)

Shorthanded TOI

4:21 (Ceci)


29 (Rielly)

5-on-5 Shot Attempt Percentage

66.7% (Ceci – 18 for, 9 against)




Scoring first


Leading after 1


Trail after 2


Score multiple power play goals


Allow one power play goal


Outshot by opponent





The Maple Leafs went 1-for-1 on the penalty kill and went 1-for-2 on the power play tonight.

The Maple Leafs established new season-highs for goals scored (8) and goals in a period (5 – 3rd period) in tonight’s game.

Toronto scored three goals in the span of 0:59 (Marner, Barrie, Marner) during the third period of tonight’s game, which is the fastest three goals scored by the team this season (Previous: 4:59,

Oct. 25, 2019 vs SJS (Rielly, Mikheyev, Matthews)).

The Maple Leafs scored two goals in 0:06 (Barrie, Marner) during the third period of tonight’s game, which is the pair of goals scored by the club this season (Previous: 0:18, Oct. 25, 2019 vs SJS (Mikheyev, Matthews)).

Frederik Gauthier and Dmytro Timashov were the lone Maple Leafs to not start a 5-on-5 shift in the offensive zone.

Morgan Rielly was on the ice for a team-high 26 Toronto shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 tonight. Rielly finished the game with a 5-on-5 shot attempt percentage of 49.1 percent (26 for, 27 against).

John Tavares won 71 percent (5 won, 2 lost) of his offensive zone faceoffs.


Friday, December 27, 7:00 p.m. at New Jersey Devils (Sportsnet Ontario, TSN 1050)

Saturday, December 28, 7:00 p.m. vs. New York Rangers (Sportsnet, Sportsnet 590 The FAN)

Tuesday, December 31, 6:00 p.m. at Minnesota Wild (Sportsnet Ontario, TSN 1050)

Thursday, January 2, 8:00 p.m. at Winnipeg Jets (TSN4, FAN 590)

Saturday, January 4, 7:00 p.m. vs. New York Islanders (Sportsnet, TSN 1050)



Opening Remarks:

Well, everything went exactly as planned so there's not a lot to talk about.

On today's game:

Just lots of emotions in the game, obviously. From our start, you're feeling great. Then it gets away on you and you start to come back in the third and you give it up again. Lots of emotions, but obviously, we really like how our team stays with it and finds a way and everybody goes home happy.


On if the result makes up for some of the mistakes made:

Yeah, it does. We need wins and we need points. Because of the way things go there — you give up the lead and the nature of some of the goals, you don't feel great about them — but we can't forget about the good things that we did. We scored seven plus an empty netter. We had a terrific start against a very good team that we knew was going to come — in fact, getting a lead like that probably was not the greatest thing for us in terms of our mindset playing against a team that is so hard to play against. I think it's part of our growth here in trying to figure things out. That's partially the reason why I didn't call a timeout in that second period. I just thought this is a good time for our team to sort themselves out here and see if we can. Whether we did or not, I don't really know in that second period, but we found a way. Our best players made big time plays.

On how he felt during the three consecutive goals in the third period:

I do a pretty good job of keeping things inside. I've been through a lot of these types of games and a lot of different things as a coach at various levels. I try not to get too caught up in it, but it was pretty fun to watch how quickly things changed and how our team responded to that.                              

On where he evaluates the Matthews and Marner pairing on a line:

I would say we're still kind of in the experiment stage. In fact, we talked about it after the second period whether we should switch back and decided not to, obviously. It worked out. How it works out long term — it's not necessarily just how that goes, but how things underneath them go. We'll have a look at all of that.

On why he stuck with it through two periods:

We just felt that there's potential there. Something could spark itself and get going. We also looked at the fact that — we just thought there were mistakes made at key times that ended up in our net that weren't necessarily a sign that the lines weren't working. I thought there were a number of good things happening through the game, we just had to get rid of the egregious mistake and how we were going to solve them in the neutral zone. I thought that we'd have a chance.

On if he thinks there's a future for Matthews and Marner as a pairing long-term:

It makes sense to me in a lot of ways in terms of the way one sees the ice and passes and the way one finishes. But we also have a good line — Mitch and [Hyman] were very successful with John there as well. We have to weigh that and, again, it has a lot to do with how things fall into place underneath them as well. We'll have to look at that. I think if I've shown anything in the early going here it's that I'm not going to stick with anything for too long.

On the Next Gen Game:

I thought the game was outstanding. I think the whole concept behind it is outstanding. I think if we didn’t make a next generation of fans here today, I’m not sure we ever will with everything that was at play. I thought it was great, the kids on the bench were cool, the interviews before the game, it’s awesome and it’s nice to be a part of that.

On what he has seen from the group to this point and what needs to be worked on:

What we’ve seen is that we have good players and we have good depth and we have the ability to set ourselves up to win games. What we have to work at is just dealing with playing with that lead. Playing with the lead is a big thing for us and what you saw today is just – we want to be a team that controls the puck and controls the play. At times you’re going to face teams or situations where you need to change your decision-making, you need to go quicker, you need to get things through the neutral zone fast. Feeling our way through that. I had a sense that at some point it was going to go bad for us and when it goes bad and you’re trying to play like that, it looks bad like it did today. But we still see lots of positives in there that will help us along the way. The other thing I talked to our team about in the third period is just that we haven’t played from behind very much here in quite a while. We were just talking about kind of enjoy that, enjoy playing from behind, have fun with that, let’s see what we can do here. That’s part of the growth as well.

On the decision to start Spezza in the opening lineup:

To be honest, the biggest thing was I had a sense here frankly that with the next generation game and it being a two o’clock start that he would have his girls in the building so a chance to give him a little moment there and it worked out for us.

On the status of Trevor Moore:

Yeah, he reported not feeling well, much like he did the other day. We thought everything was good, but he just did not feel like himself, so we pulled him out for today. We’ll give him some time over the break to see how that progresses.

On what he liked about the Spezza-Tavares combination in the third period:

I just thought that we’re trying to restart ourselves in the third period and kind of get going so I just went back to that same start but then we’re playing from behind and I like Jason’s ability to play up in the lineup and make a play at an important time. Obviously, he’s got a lot of experience and I think those are the types of things that can help us. Because of his ability I don’t hesitate to give him an opportunity to start the game.


On what was needed to keep battling after the second period:

Of course, just a short memory, I think, is the most important thing. Obviously, a bit of an emotional roller coaster today. We stuck with it then, like I said, we come out really good in the third even though they regained their two-goal lead. We just said, 'Screw it, we'll play the last 10 and give it our all.' The guys were unbelievable.

On if it was the craziest game he has been a part of:

Probably, yeah. I don't really have anything that could top that off the top of my head but definitely a wild one.

On what makes Marner so effective:

He's smooth, he skates like the wind and then I think he sees the ice as good as anyone in the League. You combine that with the good hands and he's just a playmaker out there. He can create free space for himself and the guys he plays with are good to help him out as well. He finds open space really well and, you saw today, he's a special player.


On if he believes in Toronto Raptor karma following their historic comeback victory yesterday:

I actually didn’t think of that but that comeback from them was amazing yesterday. It was the same kind of afternoon game. I think both teams have confidence in their players and their ability to do what they can. I think both teams stuck to the system and believed they could get it done and they both did.


On Auston’s backhand pass in the third period:

That’s a hell of a play by him, a hell of a pass. I kind of knew — I thought he was going to try something like that and get it over to me. We talked about trying to find that other side of the ice, so as soon as I saw him try the spin-o-rama I thought he was going to sling it over to me. Great pass, great vision and I was lucky enough to put it in.


On tonight’s game:

Yeah, I think it was just a roller coaster. A bit of a run and gun kind of game and I think the third period, we just came in, stayed positive here after the second no matter what the score was and went out there and played. Got one early and then just kind of let the momentum roll over.

On how the team maintained its composure after the second period:

I think it helps when you've got guys in here with experience like [Spezza], [Muzzin], guys that have obviously gone through a lot in their careers. I think they kind of keep the team levelheaded whether we're playing really well or not playing well at all. I think, you know, we held each other accountable today, keep each other in check and then obviously, you know, in the third period we had some fun, I guess.


On the team finding a way to win:

Yeah, I think, no question. A lot of ebbs in flow. A lot of swings in momentum. I think just great job, great resolve by the group. Outstanding. It shows our talent and our depth, the plays we were able to make. Guys just believe in themselves. I think it's huge. But I think when we move forward, I think we know a lot of tonight wasn't the recipe for success in the long term. You've got to find ways to win. It's not always pretty. Certainly, I think we owe Fred [Andersen] a lot better than we were in front of him today.

On Keefe's willingness to shuffle the lines to spark offence:

Yeah, he's trying to do what's best for the team and get us to play the best we can and get the results we need. So I think we all have a lot of trust in him and believe he's doing the best thing for the team. So, as a player, you just try to go out there and do your job.

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