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Published October 16, 2016
The last time Mitch Marner remembers attending a Maple Leafs game as a fan, Mats Sundin returned to Air Canada Centre as a Vancouver Canuck.
Over seven years later, Sundin was back to see his No. 13 raised to the rafters, and Marner was there, too, scoring his first NHL goal to help Toronto roll over the Boston Bruins 4-1 for its first win of the season on Saturday night.
Marner got his first goal in only his second game, joined on the scoresheet by fellow rookie and Toronto native Connor Brown. Their efforts came on the heels of Auston Matthews' historic debut, when he became the first player in the modern NHL to score four goals in his first game.
"It's a lot of excitement and obviously there's going to be (a) learning curve and growing pains throughout the way, but they've been playing great so far," teammate James van Riemsdyk said of the youth movement.
Brown and Marner opened the scoring about 10 minutes apart, landing the Leafs in the record books once more. Toronto became the first team since expansion in 1967-68 to have rookies combine for the first six goals to start a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Brown had the game's first goal after barely two minutes, joined shortly after by the 19-year-old Marner and then van Riemsdyk a few minutes after that.
The fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft, Marner took a pass from Tyler Bozak just outside the Boston blue line, gained the offensive zone with space and fired a shot far-side past goaltender Anton Khudobin.
A native of nearby Thornhill, Ontario, Marner followed with an exuberant celebration.
"To finally be playing in front of these fans for real, it's pretty crazy," Marner said. "And for the first one to go in in front of them, it's kind of sweet."
Outside of Matthews, Marner was perhaps Toronto's most dangerous player in a season-opening overtime loss to Ottawa on Wednesday. He had six shots in the 5-4 overtime defeat, following that up with a goal and four more shots in 15-plus minutes against the Bruins on Saturday.
He's shown a knack for getting behind the opposition's defense, finding a seam and some space for his first goal on Saturday.
"That's just good anticipation and good smarts where he can pick his spots to use his speed to get himself in those situations," van Riemsdyk said.
Marner said he'd give the puck from his first goal to his parents.
Anton Khudobin allowed four goals on 20 shots for Boston. David Pastrnak scored his third goal in two games this season.
"Overall, not a good enough effort on our part," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "And at the end of the night, you don't deserve the win."
The worst team in the NHL last season, the Leafs have quickly shown themselves to be a much faster and highly skilled entity in the early days of this season, led by Marner, Matthews and 20-year-old William Nylander. Often that youth shows itself in less effective ways though, including a messy second period in which Toronto's sloppiness with the puck led to chances and sustained offensive zone time for Boston.
"I'd like us to obviously take better care of the puck and so we'll learn how to do that," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said afterward.
Frederik Andersen gave up only one goal on 25 shots following his wobbly five-goal outing in Wednesday's season opener.
Matthews was quiet on Saturday after his unparalleled showing earlier in the week. He was held point-less and finished with only two shots in nearly 17 minutes.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs retired 17 sweaters in a pre-game ceremony, altering a long-standing team policy where jersey numbers were honored but not retired.
Bruins: Conclude their season-opening three-game trip Monday night at Winnipeg.
Maple Leafs: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday night at Winnipeg.