This was a business-like win for the Maple Leafs. They came out, took the lead right way, controlled play, and cruised down the stretch of this 4-1 win in Pittsburgh. 

Your game in 10:

1.    The Leafs started with a bang, making it 1-0 under one minute into the game. The John Tavares line took the opening shift, and after some zone time, both teams initiated a change. The problem for the Penguins: The Leafs had possession near center ice, and Auston Matthews pulled the hockey version of a fake spike pass play — he looked like he was taking the puck back to change before quickly turning back up ice and hitting a lingering Mitch Marner for a breakaway pass.

Make that a 16-game point streak for Marner, who is on absolute fire at the moment. His breakaway was a no-doubter; he froze Casey DeSmith hard before stepping around and placing the puck into the empty net.

Even with the point streak, Marner came into this game with just five goals in 22 games, which is about a 19-goal pace. Last season, he scored 35 goals after a shortened season with 20 in 55. The goals are starting to come.

2.    Pittsburgh did make a little push to try to tie the game after the Leafs went up early. Jason Zucker had a few chances, including drawing a power play at one point. The Leafs did a good job of snuffing it out and then carried the play again from there. They outshot Pittsburgh 17-5 in the period, and Sportsnet recorded the slot shots at 9-3 in their favour.

Denis Malgin went on a mini breakaway at one point, and there was a power play where Mitch Marner and John Tavares were just a little off on a backdoor play. The two big chances, though, were 2v1s where Auston Matthews actually messed up both.

The first period kind of encapsulates Matthews’ season so far, to be honest. He picked up a point, but he had multiple scoring chances that kind of left you scratching your head. On the first 2v1, he hesitated and bobbled the puck as Jeff Petry dove to break it up. There was no shot on net on the play. On the second one, he was fed a good pass and simply fanned on the puck.

And yet he left the period with a point. There are no alarm bells going off, but it’s just… strange. I am not sure how else to describe it at this point.

3.    The second period began as a continuation of the first, with the Leafs outplaying the Penguins and creating chances. It should have been 2-0 early on.

On a power play, with John Tavares and Mitch Marner on a mini 2v1 in close, the pass to Marner was off, but DeSmith overcommitted, which Marner recognized.  He tried to slide it back, but Tavares and William Nylander weren’t able to get a hold of the puck as Jan Ruuta laid out to block the wide-open net. The Penguins cleared.

A few minutes later, the Matthews line went on a 3v2 resulting in a Michael Bunting one-timer that went off the post.

Watching the game, it kind of felt like the Leafs not padding their lead might come back to bite them eventually. How many times have we seen one team dominate only to concede a cheap one the other way? It just about happened in this game when a Jake Guentzel shot got through Erik Källgren and Rickard Rakell put the puck in, but the refs didn’t realize the puck was loose and blew the play dead beforehand.

The Leafs maintained their lead and then…

4.    The insurance marker arrived. Pontus Holmberg is off to a good start to his rookie season and showed again that he has some legitimate finish to his game, notching his second goal in his last three games.

His first goal against New Jersey was a tidy breakaway goal where he beat the goalie clean through the five-hole. On this goal, Mitch Marner caused a turnover and found Holmberg in the slot, where he rifled one by DeSmith. The puck did appear to knuckle on him as he was corralling it, but Holmberg did very well to put some heat on the shot. You could see how hard it bounced off the back of the net.

No cheap goals for Holmberg yet; he’s straight-up shooting pucks by goalies when in those prime spots.

5.    The Leafs weren’t done just yet. This time, it was William Nylander scoring the goal after Michael Bunting and Auston Matthews teamed up to win battles in the dirty areas. It eventually led to the puck on Nylander’s stick in the slot, and just like the game before against Minnesota, he made no mistake.

Nylander is now tied for the team lead in goals with 12 and is on pace for what would be a career-high 43-goal season — well ahead of last season’s career-high of 34. He turns 27 next season, so we are now watching his peak/prime, and it looks great. He’s a 30+ goal scorer and essentially a point-per-game player (80 in 81 last season; 23 in 23 so far this season).

6.     This game looked all but over at this point. There was nothing in it. Pittsburgh was creating nothing. The Leafs were stringing together shifts with zone time and/or just suffocating the Penguins defensively. And then the Penguins got a lucky bounce for a goal.

After Guentzel gained the zone and curled back to try to find a trailer, his pass went off Pierre Engvall’s skate and right to Rakell, who one-timed it home. It was a bad bounce, but it was also completely unnecessary by Engvall. He was covering Rakell on the backcheck and instead of simply sticking with his man, he peeled off to check Guentzel, who Victor Mete was covering. It led to the puck going off Engvall’s skate and ultimately to his man, Rakell, who scored.

We can’t really blame Erik Källgren on this one as it was a bang-bang play and a nice shot. It’s the type of decision from Engvall, however, that just leaves you shaking your head as to what exactly he was thinking.

7.     We talked earlier about a bit of a weird period for Auston Matthews and him not finishing plays. Well, he found his goal in the third period, giving him three points on the night. That’s the issue with ever doubting Matthews: Do it at your own peril because he’s that good.

The goal was mainly thanks to Michael Bunting, though, who picked up two points on the night. He made a great individual effort to gain the zone, hold the puck to allow Matthews to gain the zone, win a battle with three Penguins surrounding him, and chip it to Matthews all alone in front. Matthews did well to collect the puck and urgently rip it. DeSmith tried challenging him, but it was too late.

That was just the fourth 5v5 goal for Matthews this season, although keep in mind he wasn’t off to a thunderous start to last season in this category, either, with seven through 23 games. He finished with 38, 10 more than the next-best player.

This was Matthews’ second three-point night of the season, but also keep in mind he didn’t have one of those until game 21 last season before he really started to take off beginning with a hat trick versus Colorado.

8.    This was the second night of a back-to-back that included travel for the Leafs. In fairness, Pittsburgh also played the night before with travel, too (they played the Flyers, though, so it was much closer), but the Leafs had way more energy in this game.

Pittsburgh is one of the oldest teams in the league, and when the Leafs have their full lineup dressed, they actually are, too. But one thing the injury situation has created is an infusion of youth.

There are four defensemen in the Leafs’ lineup who are under the age of 25 right now. The only forwards in the lineup over the age of 28 were John Tavares and Calle Järnkrok. By contrast, the Penguins dressed five defensemen over the age of 32 and seven forwards over the age of 28.

The Leafs’ legs were noticeable, as was their depth. Their lowest forward in time on ice was Pontus Holmberg at 12:01, and their highest was Mitch Marner at 19:31.

9.    I have all the respect in the world for Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, but I have to admit it’s nice to see the Leafs frustrate and hand it to them. Crosby has 56 points in 50 career games versus the Leafs and has generally tormented them for well over a decade. Malkin has crushed the Leafs with 68 points in 43 career games against Toronto. There were some particularly bleak years when the Leafs were awful and these two were at the height of their powers. If you told me at the time the Leafs would eventually have a team that would be giving it back to them, I’m not sure I would have believed you, but here we are.

10.    This was a really nice rebound game for Erik Källgren after the Islanders debacle. It was unfortunate to see him lose the shutout, but one goal against on 26 shots and generally solid play was nice to see.

I tweeted during the game against the Islanders — perhaps foolishly given the game was still being played — that I didn’t think Kallgren was a bad NHL goaltender. Of course, he gave up a weak one to tie it, and Twitter did its thing from there. But here was Kallgren again tonight giving the Leafs solid goaltending.

It’s at least enough to say he is not a bad NHL goalie. He hasn’t shown that he can stand on his head and steal the Leafs games, but generally, he’s not egregiously costing them, either. He does enough to keep them in games and give them a chance to win. I’m not sure what more we can ask from a third-string goalie/spot-duty backup.

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts