TORONTO — The Mitch Marner highlight reel continues to grow.
The 21-year-old winger dazzled on Toronto’s second goal in a 4-2 win over Columbus on Monday night. Taking a stretch pass from Kasperi Kapanen at the Columbus blueline, he had Blue Jackets defenceman Scott Harrington twisting in the wind — and desperately trying to stick-check him — as Marner dragged the puck from his forehand to his backhand.
Marner’s backhand from one knee in the slot was stopped by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky but Marner managed to grab the rebound off the goalie’s pad and steer it back to an onrushing John Tavares, who stuffed it in despite being entwined with defenceman Zach Werenski.
The goal, at 17:20 of the second period, tied the game at 2-2. A pair of third-period goals by Zach Hyman, the third member of the Leafs’ top line, sealed the Toronto win.
Marner’s handiwork even drew a tweet from WWE wrestler Luke Harper to his 447.000 followers.
“Is Mitch Marner the greatest of all time???” asked Harper, who played lacrosse and hockey growing up in Rochester, N.Y.
Leafs fans and players have become accustomed to the wizardry of the baby-faced winger, who is generously listed at six foot and 175 pounds. Marner’s skating and ability to see possibilities means he is an adventure waiting to happen every time he steps on the ice.
“You never know what he can do — the tricks he’s got up his sleeve and how dynamic he is,” said Tavares.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with him. It’s just trying to be ready when he has the puck, because you know he can make plays.”
Added forward Tyler Ennis: “Mitchie’s been playing amazing. He’s fun to watch. And he does a lot of stuff in practice too that’s impressive.”
While others marvelled at his work on the Tavares goal, Marner was hard on himself saying his backhand shot “wasn’t even close to what I wanted it to be.”
He credited Tavares, whom he had glimpsed coming up the ice in support,
“He’s a strong guy. He knows how to get to that net. It was a nice chip goal by him.”
Marner and Tavares, who has 13 goals and 12 assists, have become a potent combination with the industrious Hyman (three goals and seven assists) doing the dirty work on the line.
The trio accounted for 14 of the Leafs’ 26 shots against Columbus with six for Marner, five for Hyman and three for Tavares.
Marner, who also assisted on Hyman’s empty-net goal, now has six goals and 22 assists in 21 games. Only Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen had more assists (24) going into play Monday.
Even more impressive is the fact that 20 of Marner’s 22 assists this season have been primary assists, with nine of those on Tavares goals.
Marner has assists (8) and points (1-8-9) in five consecutive games. And he has had seven multi-assist and nine multi-point games this season.
Toronto improved its record to 15-6-0.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press