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Bozak, Komarov help Leafs roll past Avalanche


DENVER—Maybe the best goalie ever behind the bench. Definitely the best goalie over the past week in the opposition net. And up against them both: Jonathan Bernier, he of one win, circa 2015-2016.

It was a tall order, Mile High, for the Maple Leafs.

And did we mention worst road power play in the NHL—3-for-38, as of 7 p.m. Mountain Time Monday? Versus the hottest team in the NHL, 8-2 in December.

So much for stats.

Three – one-two-three – power play goals the Leafs rang up at the Pepsi Centre, eclipsing the Avalanche 7-4. The winner was delivered at even strength but it was a gonzo thing: Semyon Varlamov making the save on Tyler Bozak’s shot from the slot, 47 seconds into the third, but then sweeping the puck through his own 5-hole.

This would be the same Varlamov who, just hours earlier, had been named the NHL’s No. 1 star of the week.

Bozak put the cushy on it later, winning a race for the puck, in alone on Varlamov with a nifty little inside-out move of the wrists. James van Riemsdyk connected on a tipped point shot before Bozak covered himself in hat trick glory, albeit it into an open net.

So there has been lots of run support for Bernier in back-to-back games, and he was clearly disgusted surrendering that fourth goal with less than three minutes in regulation time.

Still, it was an unlikely outcome, though Colorado coach Patrick Roy had earlier professed concern about Toronto’s latterly improved and buoyant play. Seemed even more unlikely when the home side, riding a five-win wave, jumped ahead just 2 ½ minutes out of the chute. The Leafs, meanwhile, were gasping for breath, back on their heels.

Then: Tilt.

Bang-bang power play goals by the Leafs within four minutes.

Leo Komarov got there first, and then again, because the Russo-Finn now appears to be goal-fated. A goal-scorer’s snap of the wrist to the roof beat Varlamov. And that little piece of offensive flair was surpassed, on stylin’ points, when Komarov set up Joffrey Lupul with a backwards pass through his own legs and Lupul had nothing but yawning net to make it 2-1.

Oakville native and former Leaf John Mitchell pulled his club even just 1:07 into the second. But lethal weapon Komarov got in there once more, the puck pinging off one post and then the other before finding twine. That made it five goals over the last three games for the Big K, and a high pro career mark of 15 in one season.

Certainly Uncle Leo put the STP in Toronto’s power play engine — 3-for-3. In fact, the Leafs have seven power-play goals racked up against the Avalanche in two games this season, having ridden a quartet of them while pounding Colorado 5-1 back on Nov. 17.

If only the Leafs could bottle up the power play mojo that the Avs bring out in them.

From mountain high to desert low nextPhoenix on Tuesday.

TORONTO STAR | SPORTS