COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)On the road for the first time this season, two of Toronto’s stars and one newcomer did enough scoring to help keep the Maple Leafs unbeaten.
Mitch Marner scored twice and added an assist, Auston Matthews had a goal, and defenseman Cody Ceci – who came from Ottawa in an offseason trade – got his first tally as a Maple Leaf to help beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Friday night.
Frederik Andersen made 28 saves for Toronto to spoil Columbus’ home opener.
”First one on the road you want to start playing simple,” Andersen said. ”We turned it over too many times, but I thought we did a good job of sustaining the pressure.”
Cam Atkinson scored for the Blue Jackets in a sixth straight season opener, the longest active streak in the NHL. Mud Bruneteau of the Detroit Red Wings (1940-45) and Yvon Cournoyer of the Montreal Canadiens (1973-78) also scored in six straight.
Joonas Korpisalo, who inherited Columbus’ starting goalie job when Sergei Bobrovsky was lost to Florida via free agency, made 25 saves.
”Toronto was a great team last year, they’re a great team this year, it shows the speed we got to play with,” Columbus defenseman Seth Jones said. ”It’s only going to get faster from here.”
Toronto struck first 8 seconds into a power play in the first period when Marner beat Korpisalo from the left circle.
”That’s what I worked a lot on this summer, getting the puck in my hands and getting the shot off quicker, not holding onto it and making pretty plays,” Marner said. ”Just try getting it to the net.”
Ceci then connected with a wrist shot 10:35 into the second.
Columbus made it a one-goal game when Atkinson scored later in the second period, just 4 seconds into a Jackets power play. Andersen came out to swat at a loose puck but whiffed, and Atkinson was there to take advantage of the empty net.
That would be it for the Blue Jackets.
Marner put Toronto up 3-1 early in the third when his shot from close in trickled into the crease and was pushed into the net by Korpisalo’s skate.
Matthews got his third goal of the season late in the third on a power play, shooting from the right circle.
”I thought we were playing pretty good when we went up 2-0, got carried away and turned the puck over a number of times, and they got some momentum,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. ”But we got ourselves reset in between the second and third and came out and played well.”
Except for the five penalties, the Blue Jackets – who also lost star forward Artemi Panarin to free agency in the offseason – didn’t play badly but couldn’t take advantage of their offensive opportunities.
”It’s a team you can’t let on the power play,” Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. ”We obviously tested that too many times tonight and it cost us. Other than that, I really liked our game. I thought we did a lot of good things.”
NOTES: D Morgan Rielly had three assists for Toronto….F Jason Spezza made his Maple Leafs debut after being a healthy scratch in a season-opening 5-3 over Ottawa on Wednesday night. F Nicholas Shore was scratched. … With five rookies, the Blue Jackets have the youngest opening game roster (25.7) for the third time in four seasons. … Sixteen of the players on the Columbus roster were drafted by the team, the most in the NHL. … Toronto recalled F Nic Petan from the Toronto Marlies on Friday and loaned D Timothy Liljegren to the AHL team. … Blue Jackets rookies Emil Bemstrom and Jakob Lilja made their NHL debuts.
Maple Leafs: Host Montreal on Saturday night.
Blue Jackets: At Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
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