Marner sets career-high for points in a season, Maple Leafs hammer Canadiens 7-1

TORONTO – Mitch Marner had two goals and an assist to set a career-high with 98 points on the season as the Toronto Maple Leafs thumped the Montreal Canadiens 7-1 on Saturday night.

John Tavares, with two of his own, Auston Matthews, with a goal and three assists, William Nylander and Michael Bunting also scored for Toronto (47-21-11). Ryan O’Reilly and Erik Gustafsson added three assists each.

Ilya Samsonov made 20 saves.

With fellow goaltender Matt Murray still out due to a head injury, the Leafs signed University of Toronto netminder Jett Alexander to an amateur tryout contract — for salary cap management purposes — hours before puck drop to serve as Samsonov’s backup instead of recalling third-string option Joseph Woll from the minors.

Alexander played the final 1:10 of the game with the Leafs up by six, but didn’t register a save.

Jonathan Kovacevic replied for overwhelmed Montreal (31-43-6). Sam Montembeault stopped 39 shots.

Locked into a first-round playoff matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning — Toronto has also clinched home-ice advantage in the series — the Leafs went up 1-0 when Marner scored his 29th goal of the season on a power play midway through the opening period.

The rebuilding Canadiens finally got their first and only shot of the opening 20 minutes before Marner registered point No. 97 of the campaign with a pass to Tavares on another man advantage for the Toronto captain’s 34th.

Montreal responded early in the second when Kovacevic’s point shot hit Marner for the defenceman’s third.

But the one-way traffic quickly resumed when Nylander found the back of the net for just the third time in 13 games 1:28 later with his 38th and a 3-1 lead.

Marner then scored his 30th for his third point of the night to set a new career-high.

The 25-year-old is looking to become just the fourth Toronto player to hit 100 points in a season, joining Darryl Sittler (twice), Doug Gilmour (twice) and Matthews (once).

Tavares added his 35th on another Toronto power play in the third period to make it 5-1 on a sequence that stood up after a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference.

Matthews then ripped his 39th with six minutes left in regulation to round out the scoring before Bunting tipped a shot from the star centre for his 23rd on another man advantage.

Alexander rounded things out by getting his moment in the spotlight with 70 seconds left in regulation when he entered the game to a roaring ovation from the crowd.


Cemented in the Atlantic Division’s No. 2 spot, Toronto is looking to avoid injury and remain dialed in with three games now left on the regular-season schedule.

“Gotta play hard,” Leafs defenceman Mark Giordano said Saturday morning. “Once you start worrying about resting and not getting hurt, that’s when you’re gonna get hurt.

“Year in and year out, the teams that go (into the playoffs) really sharp and really crisp are in a better spot.”

Toronto rested blue-liners Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie against Montreal, while forward Calle Jarnkrok missed out with an undisclosed injury.


Sidelined all season with a knee injury, Canadiens goaltender Carey Price watched the morning skate from Montreal’s bench.

The 35-year-old, who’s playing future remains very much in doubt, had dinner with some of his teammates Friday.

“Great to catch up,” Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki said. “All the young guys are, like, staring at him … he’s a legend.”


Bruising winger and Toronto native Wayne Simmonds suited up for just his 18th game of the season — and potentially his last as a Leaf at Scotiabank Arena.

With the team set to close out the regular schedule on the road before the playoffs, and a deep roster of forwards at head coach Sheldon Keefe’s disposal, the 34-year-old pending unrestricted free agent’s future with the organization is up in the air.

“Always big ones on Saturday night, right?” Simmonds, who fought Montreal’s Michael Pezzetta in the first period and was involved in another skirmish in the third, said following the morning skate. “You grow up watching games like these.

“To be able to play in another one in my career is amazing.”


Toronto: Closes out the regular season with three straight road games beginning Monday in Florida.

Montreal: Visits the New York Islanders on Wednesday before winding up its 2022-23 campaign Thursday at home against Boston.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2023.


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