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TORONTO — Not to be outdone by the Raptors’ home heroics, the Maple Leafs are doing their bit to make the Air Canada Centre a fortress.
Nazem Kadri scored twice Saturday night as Toronto posted a franchise-record 10th straight home victory — snapping a four-game losing streak in the process — with a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Toronto’s four straight losses all came on the road. Toronto (40-22-7) last lost at the Air Canada Centre on Jan. The high-flying Raptors, meanwhile, have lost just one of their last 12 at home where they are a league-best 28-5 this season. MLS champion Toronto FC, another Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment team, lost just twice at BMO Field in 2017.
Kasperi Kapanen and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto before Patrick Marleau added an empty-net goal with 58 seconds left after late Pittsburgh goals by Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist made things interesting for the crowd of 19,504. Leafs coach Mike Babcock had little to offer on the home success.
Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly contributed three assists to match a career high. "Well you want to be real good at home and obviously you want to be real good on the road," he said in classic Babcock-talk.
"They got a couple of quality chances and they finished," said coach Mike Sullivan. I thought we had a good start, we were controlling territory, we were controlling momentum.
The first couple of goals that they got, I don’t think we made them work hard for, and that’s on us. I know our guys are capable of making it more difficult. We pushed at the end, but obviously a four-goal deficit is tough." Pittsburgh got off to a torrid start, bottling the Leafs up in their end and outshot them 6-0 in the first four minutes.
"There were a lot of good things that went on out there as well. It took Toronto 5 1/2 minutes to register a shot on goal and that was a clearance during a penalty kill.
The Maple Leafs, who had won 13 of 15 games before their four-game road slide, led 3-0 on nine shots midway through the contest.
Three successful penalty kills against the league’s best power play helped.