TORONTO (AP) — Curtis McElhinney got all the help he needed in his season debut.
McElhinney made 30 saves and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.
Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 15 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.
“There’s a little rust on my end, that’s for sure, but it sure did feel nice to get in there,” McElhinney said. “Obviously, the run support early on helps and goes a long way. It’s just a big win for us and I’m happy I could help out.”
Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0.
“Great to see, but it’s still October,” Kadri said. “There’s a lot of good teams and it won’t be this loose for long.”
The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.
“We used everybody last night, a good four-line rotation, so that helped us,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “Our guys were fresher than they might have been.
McElhinney had a real solid effort for us, he had to be good early. Even though we scored (early) it took a while to get our legs going.”
Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists. Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period.
Toronto scored on its first two shots and four of its first five.
“I think there was some funny goals,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “”I don’t know if it was all on them, some of it is. It’s one of those nights.”
The Maple Leafs opened the scoring after catching the Red Wings on a bad line change. Kadri took a long pass from Ron Hainsey, walked in and beat Howard over the blocker at 5:56. Hyman scored 44 seconds later, tipping Rielly’s shot past Howard.
“I thought (Kadri’s) group was our best group tonight, dialed in start to finish,” Babcock said.
Zetterberg put Detroit on the board with 7:50 to play in the first after getting McElhinney to bite on a fake before skating around the net and finishing on a wraparound with the netminder out of position.
Matt Martin didn’t record Toronto’s third shot on net until near the 14-minute mark of the period and it turned out to be the only save of the night for Howard.
Matthews chased Howard from the Wings net with 4:14 to play in the first, snapping a shot past him from almost the exact same spot Kadri did to open the scoring.
Mrazek didn’t fare any better, with Brown beating him through a screen on the first shot he faced — 40 seconds after Matthews’ goal.
Notes: A “moment of celebration” was held before the game for Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie. He died of cancer on Tuesday at 53. … Leafs forward Patrick Marleau played in his 1,500th NHL game.
Red Wings: Host Washington on Friday night.
Maple Leafs: At Ottawa on Saturday night.
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