TORONTO — One little tweak to Toronto’s lines is paying off in a big way for the Maple Leafs.
Nazem Kadri had three goals and two assists, Frederik Andersen made a career-high 54 saves and surging Toronto beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3 on Wednesday night.
The line of Kadri, Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner combined for five goals and five assists. Since the trio was formed on Jan. 24 against Chicago, Kadri has seven goals and eight assists, Marner has seven goals and five assists, and Marleau has three goals and four assists.
“My linemates contributed just as much as I did,” Kadri said. “They found me, I just tried to get open, and the puck seemed to find me tonight.”
The production far exceeds what Kadri and Marleau managed with Leo Komarov, their regular linemate for a large chunk of the season.
“I’m not sure,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said when asked about the change in the lineup. “I used them together, Kadri and Marner, last year and they were no good together. That’s the beauty of having more players. You move them around and once in a while you get lucky.”
Andersen also turned in a solid performance as the Maple Leafs closed out a perfect five-game homestand. It was the first time in franchise history that the team swept a homestand of five games or more.
“I had a clean view of most of the shots, and I think that was the key to withstand all of that,” Andersen said.
The Blue Jackets recorded 50 or more shots for the third straight game, making them the first team to accomplish the feat in the post-expansion era (since 1967-68). Nick Foligno had two goals and an assist, and Joonas Korpisalo made 22 saves.
Toronto played much of the game without defenseman Jake Gardiner, who departed with a lower-body injury after one period.
“I’m not exactly sure how it happened. He’s got some kind of spasm or something like that,” Babcock said.
The Maple Leafs had a 4-2 lead before Jack Johnson beat Andersen with a slap shot from the left circle that went off the post and into the net at 14:35 of the second. It was Johnson’s third goal of the season.
Toronto then put it away with two in the third. Kadri got his 21st of the season at 11:21, and Marleau added an empty-netter with 1:47 left.
“I like the way we played,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “Problem tonight for us is we couldn’t finish.”
The Maple Leafs opened the scoring when Dominic Moore finished a 2-on-1 with his fifth goal at 4:38 of the first. With David Savard taking away the passing lane to Kasperi Kapanen, Moore used a backhanded shot to beat Korpisalo.
Kadri cut around Korpisalo before using a screen to make it 2-0 at 7:36, but the Blue Jackets pulled within one when Foligno received a centering pass from Alexander Wennberg and fired a backhander by Andersen with 1:39 left.
Foligno scored his 13th goal early in the second. He received a pass from Wennberg on a 2-on-1 and beat Andersen at 2:25.
But Kadri’s one-timer made it 3-2 at 8:03 and he set up Marner’s one-timer at 10:17.
NOTES: Toronto D Travis Dermott had two assists. … Columbus was 0 for 2 on the power play, and Toronto went 0 for 3 with the man advantage.
Blue Jackets: Host Philadelphia on Friday night.
Maple Leafs: Visits Pittsburgh on Saturday night.