TORONTO — Nazem Kadri is scoring a whole bunch more for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season with a little luck on his side.
Kadri beat Brian Elliott twice in the Leafs 4-0 win over the Calgary Flames on Monday night, equalling a career-best with 20 goals on the season. It took him only 141 shots over 45 games to match the mark, set in 78 games during the 2013-14 season.
Good fortune is certainly back on his side following a particularly unlucky '15-16 season in which Kadri fired 260 shots over 76 games — 12th most in the NHL — but found the back of the net only 17 times. He finished the year with a career-low 6.5 per cent shooting percentage.
The 26-year-old didn't think the chances he was getting this year were any different from last, though he had come around to getting his shot off more quickly than before.
"Not even more chances," he said. "I think (it's) just being able to put the puck in the back of the net and cash in on my opportunities. Obviously last year was a year like no other in terms of just breaks and bounces and shooting percentage and all that stuff. You figured it had to change if you stuck with it."
He scored his first against the Flames coming down the left side of the ice, his shot through defenceman Deryk Engelland beating Elliott glove-side. It was his 100th career NHL goal. Later in the final period, he fired from the top on the left faceoff circle on a power play, a screen from James van Riemsdyk helping the puck beat the struggling Calgary netminder for No. 20.
The goal was also Kadri's team-leading 10th with the man advantage this season, by far eclipsing his previous career-high of seven.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock believed Kadri was benefiting from a new spot on the Toronto power play (not from where he scored against Calgary), a position in the slot as opposed to the half-wall where he spent last year.
"And then it's like anything, it's contagious," Babcock said. "When you start scoring you think you can and you take a little more time when you get it instead of (rushing) it and you bury it."
Mitch Marner had a two-point night in the win, grabbing hold of not only the Leafs scoring lead (39 points), but the overall rookie scoring race in the NHL. The 19-year-old, with a goal and an assist against the Flames, is now a point up on teammate Auston Matthews (38 points) for top spot and two points up on Winnipeg's injured star Patrik Laine (37).
Frederik Andersen also posted his second shutout of the season on Monday, stopping all 26 shots he faced while sending the Flames to their third straight loss and fifth defeat in the past sixth games.
Toronto, after dropping two in a row for the first time since mid-December, now sits third in the Atlantic division with 53 points.
The club jumped ahead against the Flames with 61 seconds left in the opening frame, Marner tipping a Nikita Zaitsev point shot past Elliott. The 31-year-old Elliott entered the night with the worst save percentage (.893) in the league among goaltenders with at least 20 starts.
He gave up two more in the second, the first to Kadri off the rush and the latter to rookie Zach Hyman. Hyman broke in alongside veteran Leo Komarov with the Flames on a power play and while stopped initially, stuffed in his second short-handed goal in three games.
Babcock was alarmed at all the penalties his team took against the Flames (eight minors), a stumbling point for the team recently. His penalty kill, though, stopped all four Calgary power plays and ranks fourth overall this year (85 per cent).
Kadri added the fourth Toronto goal on an early third-period power play.
The action turned briefly testy between the two Canadian clubs shortly before the Hyman marker, Flames star winger Johnny Gaudreau hit hard by Leafs winger Leo Komarov with Toronto shorthanded.
Komarov came up from behind Gaudreau in the Flames zone and delivered a shoulder to Gaudreau's midsection just after he moved the puck. The 23-year-old stayed down on the ice while the team's captain Mark Giordano pursued Komarov, the two both given minor penalties for roughing.
The Flames bench appeared irate that Komarov went unpenalized for hit, which didn't appear to violate rule 48 — defined as a hit "with an opponent's head where the head was the main point of contact."
Gaudreau went briefly to the team's dressing room before quickly returning.
"I was close to the boards and I had a lot of speed so it was kind of looked a little bit worse than it was," Komarov said afterward. "He's a little bit smaller guy too. I think it was a good hit."
The Flames additionally showed their frustration in the waning minutes of regulation, Sam Bennett kicking out the leg of Leafs defenceman Connor Carrick with 80 seconds left. The 22-year-old reacted with a cross-check to the back.
Toronto played for the third straight game without top defenceman Morgan Rielly. Babcock was unsure if the 22-year-old would return to play before the all-star break, which begins Friday following a back-to-back set against Detroit and Philadelphia.