The Canadian Press
TORONTO–Garret Sparks had a lot of thoughts rattling in his head before his first start of the season.
He didn’t have a chance to overthink the second.
Toronto’s back-up goalie made 33 saves in place of the injured Frederik Andersen, and Kasperi Kapanen, scored twice as the Maple Leafs stretched their winning streak to five games with last night’s 4-1 victory over the L.A. Kings.
Sparks allowed six goals on 31 shots in a wild 7-6 overtime triumph on Oct. 7 in Chicago against the Blackhawks–the team he grew up cheering for as a kid in the nearby suburb of Elmhurst–but was much sharper against L.A. in his first home appearance for the Leafs since April 6, 2016.
“When you’re starting the season on the road, in Chicago, Stan Mikita night . . . there’s a lot of stuff buzzing around,” Sparks said of the game at the United Center.
“It was a really emotional day for me.”
Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock named Sparks as a surprise starter against the Kings following yesterday’s morning skate.
The team then announced about two-and-a-half hours before puck drop that Andersen had suffered a knee injury, with Eamon McAdam getting recalled from the Newfoundland Growlers of the third-tier ECHL on an emergency basis.
“I wasn’t anticipating playing when I went to bed [Sunday],” noted Sparks, who was the AHL goalie-of-the-year last season.
“But that’s the nature of this position–having to be ready and being able to perform when you’re called upon.”
Babcock said after the game he expects Andersen to start when the Leafs host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner had the other goals for Toronto (6-1-0) while Auston Matthews and Jake Gardiner each added two assists.
Matthews leads the NHL in scoring (10 goals, six assists) and is just the fourth player in NHL history to start a season with seven-consecutive multi-point games, joining Mario Lemieux (1992-93), Kevin Stevens (1992-93), Mike Bossy (1984-85), and Wayne Gretzky (1983-84).
“I’m just trying to play hockey, have fun, and get those opportunities and try to cash in on them,” Matthews said.
“Fortunate they’ve been going in.
“The most important thing is we’ve been winning games,” he added.
Ilya Kovalchuk replied for L.A. (2-3-1). Jack Campbell stopped 21 shots in taking the loss.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Montreal dumped Detroit 7-3, Ottawa beat Dallas 4-1, and Nashville doubled Minnesota 4-2.