It was the second half of a back-to-back on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champions with a fully healthy defense for only the third time this season. But when you’re hot, you’re hot.

Right now, the Leafs are on some kind of run, banking points and seemingly scoring at will. The 7-3 score not only kept the Leafs‘ winning streak alive (now at six consecutive), but it bumped their goals-per-game average to the top of the league.

Your game in 10:

1.   It will go down as a footnote in this game, but Vegas came out and asserted themselves early. It is easy to dismiss them when they are missing captain Mark Stone and first-line center Jack Eichel, but as we have witnessed recently with the Leafs, the absence of stars from the lineup sometimes leads to a simplified approach and can make for a tough out on any given night.

Still the reigning champs with Stanley Cup DNA, not only were the Golden Knights shorthanded, but they were playing in their home arena jam-packed with Leafs fans who started a Go Leafs Go chant before puck drop. Some pride was to be expected (although it proved shortlived).

Early on, Vegas came out with energy and almost scored on the first shift of the game on a point shot that somewhat fooled Martin Jones; the puck deflected up and over him, and by some miracle bounce, it back spun towards the goalie instead of into the wide open net.

On the next shift, Nicholas Roy had a chance alone in the slot followed by another one for Mike Amadio. The Golden Knights worked the forecheck early and were getting pucks to the point while looking to shoot with traffic. It was a change of pace for a Leafs team coming off of a run of weak opponents, so it took them a few shifts to adjust.

After their first shift, the Leafs’ top line started to assert themselves. The other line that generated a great early shift to calm things down was the fourth unit of Pontus Holmberg – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves, who established a strong forecheck resulting in a good Reaves chance in the slot.

Soon after, Mitch Marner, who has been red hot, produced a dominant shift in which he created a look with a slap pass to Auston Matthews and a good shot of his own to start building some offensive-zone momentum for the Leafs. With the early pressure weathered, Toronto started to build into the game. All bets were off from there.

2.   Halfway through the first period, the Leafs took the lead and never looked back.

Bobby McMann has been grabbing all sorts of headlines due to his goal-scoring exploits lately — and rightfully so — but what looks real and sustainable is that he’s a big, strong, fast player who can create space and offensive opportunity. In the third period against Arizona, he won multiple battles through the neutral zone, leading to a 2v1 with Nick Robertson and John Tavares that led to a Tavares goal.

In this game, the Leafs had some trouble handling the Vegas forecheck and length of their defensemen on the first few shifts, but then McMann went to work dominating a shift. He carried it below the net before sending the puck back to the point and heading to the net. The point shot went wide and rimmed up the boards to Jake McCabe, who shot it back down the wall. After McMann won the race to the puck behind the net and centered it, the puck deflected to McCabe, who wound up a slap shot on a fluttering puck. McCabe got enough on it, and it deflected off Alec Martinez and in.

It’s recorded as an unassisted goal for McCabe — and he did well to keep the puck in and lean into a puck that wasn’t lying flat — but the story of the goal was McMann creating his own space. Vegas is a big, strong team. A player of McMann’s size creating space and making plays is a great way to counter it.

3.   Just over a minute later, the Leafs doubled their lead on a fourth-line shift. The fourth line produced a really good first period; it has begun to click with Ryan Reaves in the 4RW spot rather than Noah Gregor, who was a healthy scratch again tonight.

The goal itself was simple enough. Reaves dumped the puck in before Adin Hill stopped it behind the net and bizarrely held onto the puck, allowing the Leafs forwards to close down in deep. Hill then floated a soft pass to one of his defensemen below the goal line, which is a cardinal sin for a goaltender (if you wait, you have to rim it! You can’t hold it and float a soft pass).

Kampf pressured on the forecheck and the puck went up the wall, where Reaves sealed it off and kicked it back to his centerman. Kampf drove it to the net on his forehand, making a power move to the far post on his forehand and staying with it after Hill stopped the first attempt. Kampf picked up the rebound and finished off his second effort while falling down to the ice.

It was a nice finish in front from Kampf, who is part of a fourth line that’s really starting to come together since Pontus Holmberg and Kampf were paired up. It’s starting to look like the Leafs really have something with this duo.

4.   On the third goal, Bobby McMann picked up his deserved assist. Off an offensive-zone faceoff, the Leafs ran a little set play a lot of teams are starting to incorporate — the far-side winger on the wall pokes the puck to the point, skates high across the zone, and opens up for a one-timer play.

Simon Benoit missed McMann on the pass, but McMann stayed with it and got his stick on a Brayden McNabb pass to disrupt it. Nick Robertson supported his forecheck by taking away the wall and was rewarded when the puck went right to him. Robertson passed it to John Tavares, who finally scored his first five-on-five goal since December 11 against Arizona. The captain picked up the puck in the slot, toe-dragged the puck, and ripped home a no-doubter.

It was a great finish for Tavares, who is clearly starting to feel it again.

5.   With the score at 3-0, the Leafs were really rolling and coming at Vegas in waves. We’ve talked about the team needing to establish a three-line attack; this first period was a good example of what one can look like for this Leafs team. Every line was hopping over the boards and creating offense. They were overwhelming Vegas with their tenacity, speed, and skill. And they weren’t done scoring yet.

Another center who has been struggling to score (just two goals in his last 24 games), Max Domi, got in on the action. Tyler Bertuzzi did well on the cycle to work the wall and send the puck up to William Nylander, who pulled high to the blue line (a play we have become accustomed to seeing). With a lane available, Nylander took it down the wall and behind the net.

He won’t get an assist on the play or much recognition, but Morgan Rielly was creeping down and calling for the puck, which pulled Vegas two Vegas defenders with him and set the stage for Domi to be wide-open on the backdoor. If he was able to one-time it, Domi had the whole net available, but the pass handcuffed him, allowing Hill to square up to the shot. Domi’s first effort was saved, but he whacked the second opportunity into the net.

Domi did well to stay with the play while Bertuzzi — who picked up an assist on the play — did well in front to run a little interference on Alec Martinez, buying Domi a little extra time.

Hill got the yank after this one, and the Leafs ended the first period with four goals on 36 shot attempts. They created boatloads of offense in the opening 20 minutes.

6.   Naturally, when a team takes a 4-0 lead to the first intermission in the home arena of the reigning Stanley Cup champs, it has to expect some level of pushback. Not even a minute into the second period, Vegas got one back.

At the end of the first shift, Matthew Knies tried to make a play with a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone instead of simply putting it deep and getting off the ice. Again, it it’s a learning moment for the rookie. The team is already up 4-0 and the second period is just getting started; nothing should be given up for free.

The turnover caught the Leafs tired and flat-footed as William Karlsson took a pass at full speed after hopping on the ice. Allowed to walk in and shoot, the Vegas centerman ripped home a shot from the top of the circle.

You’d love a stop from Martin Jones here, but if you watch it back, he was out of the crease challenging the shooter. The reality is that by allowing quality NHL players — and Karlsson is one — to walk in with speed, wind up, and shoot, there is a reasonable chance they’ll score.

7.    4-1 is still a comfortable lead, but with two full periods still to play, a little doubt does start to creep in — especially following a game against Arizona that looked all but over before the Coyotes fought back, leading to a timeout by Sheldon Keefe. If nothing else, it was going to be interesting to see how the Leafs would respond to a somewhat similar-ish situation.

In this case, it was a much better response. The Leafs got back to work, sustaining offensive-zone pressure at times and giving nothing up for free. By the time the second period was over, the Leafs out-attempted Vegas 18-14 and scored twice to grow their lead.

The first of those two goals was another Max Domi tally that showcased his speed. When Vegas tried to skate the puck in, Simon Benoit stonewalled the attempt and then kicked it up the wall, where Marner deflected it up the boards. Sniffing a loose puck with a clear lane down the ice for the breakaway, Domi took off.

He made a great play to take it strongly on his forehand as Shea Theodore tried to close him off and then shot it cross-body to the far side as the goalie pulled across. It was a great finish, showcasing Domi’s speed and skill.

People have lamented the lack of speed on this Leafs team at times, but we’re starting to see that with Domi, McMann, Robertson, and Knies really asserting themselves individually, there is more pace in this lineup than previously believed.

8.    Not to be outdone, Pontus Holmberg grew the lead with a highlight-reel goal to give the Leafs their sixth of the night.

Holmberg poked the puck off of Jonathan Marchessault in the neutral zone before turning up ice and faking a drop pass, which made Marchessault bite on it just enough to open up a clear lane to the net. Holmberg happily took it and then roofed it shortside. It was a crafty play and a nice finish.

Also noteworthy, even though he didn’t pick up an assist on the play, is that Reaves was involved in the initial neutral-zone turnover that started the whole sequence. The fourth line has really come alive with Holmberg on it, and there’s real competition for jobs that is keeping the players in the mix sharp and hungry.

9.   As good as the Leafs’ response was in the second period after the early goal against, the start of the third period was a disaster. Vegas once again scored in the first minute of the period.

The puck went up the wall, where Nylander couldn’t win the race, but he should’ve been able to maintain good positioning and didn’t. At the same time, Domi cheated up ice. Shea Theodore stepped up and was suddenly walking in with both Nylander and Domi behind him. Theodore passed it to Marchessault, who had the whole shortside to aim at as he ripped it home.

26 seconds later, Vegas made it 6-3 as the Leafs committed a comedy of errors. Nick Robertson gave it away on a breakout before John Tavares did a flyby as Vegas gained the zone with the speed. Both McCabe and Benoit established zero gap control, and Robertson-Benoit didn’t hand off Amadio sneaking behind them. Amadio took the pass and shot it home.

Suddenly, it was a 6-3 game, and unlike in the second period when the team calmed itself down, Sheldon Keefe once again used a timeout to ensure the game didn’t fully get away from them.

10.   The Leafs generated a decent response shift after the timeout, but soon after, the game turned far too chaotic. Suddenly, there was a pace to the game, the Leafs and Vegas were trading chances, and Vegas hit the post twice — the first was a Paul Cotter shot off the rush that seemed to surprise Jones, and the second was a point shot from Shea Theodore.

With over half the period to go, there was too much back and forth from Toronto’s perspective. The Leafs needed to slow the game right down and make it a grind. Holmberg then took a penalty, and suddenly, it felt like if Vegas could score a goal to bring it within two, there was more than enough time to make it a real contest.

The Leafs penalty kill has been awful lately, but on this occasion — led by Mitch Marner — they really buckled down. Vegas created nothing threatening, and then when the penalty kill ended, Marner made a really nice play to spring Auston Matthews and Pontus Holmberg on a rush with a breakout pass from the wall.

On a 2v2, Matthews dropped it to Holmberg, who walked in and sold the shot, buying time for Matthews to get to the net. Holmberg then ripped the puck low for Matthews to deflect into the net for goal #52 and a 7-3 lead. The goal also gave Marner six straight multi-assist games and 15 assists in total over those half-dozen games.

The seventh goal really deflated Vegas’ momentum, and from there, the game was uneventful (save for one more memorable fourth-line shift where they buzzed for more than a minute in the offensive zone). To begin with, it shouldn’t have gotten to that point — 6-3, with Vegas hitting multiple posts and then going to a power play — but the Leafs did more than enough to earn full marks for their two points and their sixth win in a row.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Joe Bowen & Jim Ralph Game Highlights: Leafs 7 vs. Vegas 3