TORONTO — John Tavares wants to see his Toronto Maple Leafs focus more on the details.
Vince Dunn scored the eventual winner and added two assists to lead the Seattle Kraken past the Maple Leafs 5-1 after Toronto's second flat performance in three days. Tavares said the Maple Leafs didn't respond well to adversity Thursday.
"We have to do a better job, obviously, of executing those details, especially in certain moments of the game to continue to give us a chance and be right there," said Tavares. "Especially when we did a lot of good things in the first half."
Toronto outshot Seattle 10-3 in the first period with Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe noting that only one of those shots was a real threat to goaltender Matt Murray. He made 21 saves.
The Maple Leafs (23-9-7) also looked deflated during Tuesday's 6-5 shootout loss to the undermanned St. Louis Blues, who have captain Ryan O'Reilly, star forward Vladimir Tarasenko and stalwart defenceman Torey Krug on the injured reserve.
Mitch Marner, who assisted on Tavares's goal for his 44th point of the season, had a simple suggestion for how Toronto could bounce back from the disappointing losses.
"Just relax. I mean, we're a great team. We know that," he said, noting that the Maple Leafs host Detroit on Saturday. "It's a divisional rival that we beat in their building last so we've got to come hungry, pushing them."
Jared McCann had a goal and an assist as Seattle (21-12-4) won its third straight. Eeli Tolvanen opened the scoring on the power play, with Matty Beniers and Alex Wennberg also chipping in. Martin Jones stopped 26 shots for the win.
"We shot a lot of pucks tonight from all sorts of angles," said Dunn. "That's really important to keep the goalie honest and for us to establish a forecheck."
Tolvanen wired a slap shot from the point past Murray midway through the first with the puck possibly nicking Toronto defenceman Mark Giordano.
Tavares tied it up for the Maple Leafs on a power play nearly four minutes later. Marner sent a pass in on Seattle's net where Tavares and Michael Bunting were standing in front of Jones. Tavares deflected the pass between his legs and into the net.
Just 14 seconds later, Dunn's wrist shot handcuffed Murray to give the Kraken another one-goal lead.
"For the most part, we were pretty good in the first period, but they definitely gave it to us," said Dunn. "I think we were just getting our legs into it a little bit."
A streaking McCann made it 3-1 shortly afterward, taking a lead pass from Jaden Schwartz for a clean breakaway. He snapped a shot past Murray for his team-leading 18th goal of the season.
Beniers piled on as the second period wound down, pivoting sharply with the puck on his stick to whip a shot past Murray.
It took less than three minutes of play in the third for the Kraken to add to their lead. Wennberg completed his partial breakaway with the puck on his backhand and slid it past Murray.
Like McCann, Dunn and Beniers's goals, it came at even strength, adding to Seattle's league-leading 5-on-5 scoring rate.
O CANADA! — After the game ended but before the three stars were announced, a spontaneous cheer went up among the 18,624 in attendance at Scotiabank Arena as fans checked their cellphones to see that Canada had triumphed over Czechia in the final of the men's world junior championship. Dylan Guenther had the overtime winner for Canada at Halifax's Scotiabank Centre.
MARNER ALL-STAR — Marner was named to his third consecutive all-star team on Thursday night. The 25-year-old Toronto forward from nearby Thornhill, Ont., is on pace for a career season with 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) through 39 games.
"There's a couple of things you dream of as a kid: playing in this league, winning the Stanley Cup, and getting to that all-star game, so it's it's a cool accomplishment," said Marner. "It wouldn't have happened without a lot of these guys in this room, without everybody in this room."
SAMMY BREAK — Murray got the start over Ilya Samsonov in Toronto's net after the 25-year-old Russian goaltender let in five goals on 32 shots in the Maple Leafs's 6-5 shootout loss to St. Louis on Tuesday. Although Samsonov has a 2.38 goals-against average on the season, he has struggled in his last four games, allowing a total of 17 goals in that span with a 2-1-1 record.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press