TORONTO (AP) — Matt Martin thinks his offensive statistics might be helped by his new linemate.
Mitch Marner played on Toronto’s fourth line for the third straight game and set up goals by Martin and Tyler Bozak, and the Maple Leafs handed the Los Angeles Kings their first regulation loss of the season with a 3-2 victory on Monday night.
“He’s one of the elite playmakers in the league so it’s a good opportunity for me and (Dominic Moore) right now to try and get some offense,” Martin said.
“We’ll ride this as long as we can.”
Marner had 19 goals and 42 assists in 77 games last season as a rookie. But he struggled to produce early this season with his regular linemates Bozak and James van Riemsdyk, leading to him being replaced on Toronto’s second line by Connor Brown.
He entered Monday with just one goal in eight games, but coach Mike Babcock felt he was Toronto’s best player against the Kings.
“We need him to be a star, we think he’s a star,” Babcock said.
“The NHL is a hard league when it doesn’t go your way and the other thing about the league is when someone gets in your spot and they play real good, that makes it hard for you. I thought he was excellent tonight, I thought that line was good, I thought Matt Martin was a good player for us.”
Patrick Marleau also scored for the Maple Leafs (7-2-0), and Frederik Andersen made 36 saves.
Toronto has won at least seven of its first nine games for the first time since the 1993-94 season and just the seventh time overall in franchise history.
Adrian Kempe and Trevor Lewis scored for Los Angeles (6-1-1), which had won four in a row. Jonathan Quick stopped 31 shots.
Marner helped the Maple Leafs jump in front 5:46 into the first. He entered the zone and curled behind the net before teeing up Roman Polak for a one-timer from the blue line that Martin deflected past Quick from the top of the crease.
“Everyone is scared of (Martin) when that guy’s coming full speed at you on the forecheck,” Marner said.
“We kind of talked about that before the game, just let him be the animal he is in deep. It worked out. He made some great plays out there to get me the puck and it went our way.”
Bozak made it 2-0 when he jammed home a rebound on a power play with 5:16 to play in the second. But Kempe quickly responded for Los Angeles, beating Andersen with a wrist shot.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty got cut on the nose by Marleau’s skate midway through the second, but was OK to play on once the bleeding stopped.
The Kings held a 29-24 shot advantage through 40 minutes.
Marner scored early in the third, but it was waived off for incidental contact on Quick, who was taken out of the play by a sliding Martin. Leafs coach Mike Babcock challenged the call and lost.
Marleau scored 26 seconds later with a deflection that went to review for a high stick, but the call stood and it was 3-1 Leafs 2:46 into the third.
Lewis cut into Toronto’s lead with a short-handed goal with 7:41 to go, getting alone on Andersen before sneaking the puck through his pads.
Any chance of a comeback was halted when Quick took a minor for interference with 2:05 to play.
“We got back to the way we want to play, I think,” Marner said. “We played a solid defensive game. I think that’s what we’ve got to be happy with here.”
It was one rough night for Quick, who took an errant elbow from teammate Derek Forbort with 2:59 remaining in the first period and clutched his head briefly, but continued on.
With 1:11 to go in the period, Quick was forced off the ice for concussion protocol by the league spotter. He returned at the next whistle without going to the locker room, visiting with the team trainer in the tunnel. He missed just 36 seconds of game action while replaced by Darcy Kuemper.
The situation confused many, including Kings coach John Stevens, who said the league did a second review and rescinded their mandatory evaluation.
“Everybody was just doing what they were told,” Stevens said. “In the end, we wanted to put Johnny back in but (the refs) deemed him an injured player and he had to come out for one play.
“Quite honestly we want to ask the league because it was a little disruptive. Nobody to blame, just more clarification.”
NOTES: Polak made his season debut after signing a $1.1 million, one-year deal on Sunday. The defenseman had one assist and played 12-plus minutes. ... Leafs F Eric Fehr was placed on waivers earlier in the day.
Kings: Visit Ottawa on Tuesday night.
Maple Leafs: Host Carolina on Thursday.