TORONTO (AP) — Martin Marincin picked a great time to get on the scoresheet.
After being the odd-man out on Toronto’s blue line in most games this season, Marincin scored a rare goal to put Toronto ahead in the third period, and the Maple Leafs beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Saturday night.
Marincin, who entered the night with four career goals in 223 games, got his first of the season and only his second since 2016-17 just 18 seconds into the third.
“I was so, so happy. First goal this season, so I was excited for that,” said the 28-year-old playing in his 23rd game of the season. “It’s not my role (to score) but I like it. I can do it. I have to be more active.”
He grabbed his own rebound off the end boards and beat Demko glove side to put Toronto up 3-2.
“It’s not every night you see a guy who’s 6-foot-5 who plays a shutdown role do something like that,” said Toronto’s Auston Matthews, who also scored. “I’ve seen it before, yeah. You don’t see it often, but when he brings it out it’s usually a treat.”
Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, who also coached Marincin with Toronto of the AHL, wasn’t as surprised as many in the Scotiabank Arena to see him score.
“Got to love the initiative of Marty to finish it,” Keefe said. “He takes a lot of heat around here, up and down (to the minors) but when you call upon him he gives you everything he has and it’s all you can ask for.”
Frederik Gauthier and Zach Hyman also scored to help the Maple Leafs win for the fourth time in five games. Frederik Andersen stopped 25 shots in his seventh straight start as Toronto increased its lead to five points on Florida — which lost to Chicago in a shootout — for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Tyler Motte and Tanner Pearson had goals for Vancouver, which came in six points behind first-place Vegas in the Pacific Division. Thatcher Demko finished with 26 saves.
“We’re still good in standings but we got to win games, got to get points,” said Canucks star Elias Pettersson, who was held scoreless with no shots on net in 21 minutes of ice time. “I’m not playing my best hockey right now. I want to be better. … We like to score goals. We just have to find a way to win.”
Kasperi Kapanen nearly put the game away for the Maple Leafs with just over eight minutes to go, but Demko went post to post to rob him with his left pad and keep it a one-goal game.
Andersen made his biggest stop of the night with 4:50 remaining when he got a pad down on J.T. Miller off a rebound.
Canucks coach Travis Green felt his team deserved a better fate.
“We played a good road game, battled back,” said Green. “Bit of an unlucky goal, the third one. And it was a good response from our team coming into a tough building against a good team. Quite easily could have gone the other way.”
Hyman followed soon after with an empty-netter, his career-high 21st goal of the season, to seal the win.
Both goalies had rough starts by combining to allow four goals on seven shots in the first 10 minutes of the game before settling in.
Gauthier opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game on Toronto’s first shot, taking a pass from Rasmus Sandin and snapping it blocker side on Demko from the top of the right face-off circle.
Motte responded for Vancouver at 5:28 after a strong forecheck. Jay Beagle won a puck battle behind the net and put a pass out front to Brandon Sutter, who slid the puck over to Motte at the side of an open net for an easy tap in.
Matthews restored the lead for the Maple Leafs only 57 seconds later when he cruised down the left wing and snapped it five-hole on Demko from a bad angle. It was Matthews’ 47th, moving him two behind Boston’s David Pastrnak for the league lead.
Pearson drew the Canucks even again with 8:58 to go in the first, putting home a rebound from the side of the crease.
Toronto’s William Nylander had the best scoring chance of the second period when he got a step on Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes for a half break before the rookie defenseman forced him to lose control of the puck and slide into the post.
NOTES: The Canucks scratched Jordie Benn, Zack MacEwen, Micheal Ferland (concussion), Josh Leivo (knee), Tyler Graovac (lower-body), Brock Boeser (rib), Jacob Markstrom (lower-body). … Toronto scratched Timothy Liljegren, Ilya Mikheyev (wrist laceration), Morgan Rielly (fractured foot), Cody Ceci (ankle), Andreas Johnsson (meniscus), Jake Muzzin (broken hand).
Canucks: At Columbus on Sunday night before opening a four-game homestand.
Maple Leafs: At San Jose on Tuesday night to open a three-game California trip.