NEWARK, N.J. — John Tavares is earning every penny of the seven-year, $77 million contract the Toronto Maple Leafs gave him in the offseason.
Not only is he living up to the hype, the 28-year-old center is having a career year.
Tavares scored twice and hit the 300-goal mark for his career in leading the Maple Leafs to a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
“It’s always that more satisfying when it contributes to a big win, especially bouncing back after the other night, so credit a lot of guys who I’ve played with over my career because obviously that was a big part of helping me be successful,” said Tavares, who also picked up an assist on linemate Mitch Marner’s empty-net goal with 22 seconds to play.
Tavares’ best season was 38 goals and 48 assists in 2014-15 with the Islanders. He now has 29 goals and 21 assists in 43 games with the Maple Leafs.
Tavares and Marner were helped by the return of left wing Zach Hyman, who was activated missing eight games with an ankle injury.
“They’re awesome,” Hyman said after posting a plus-4 night. “I just try and get them the puck as much as I can. John’s pretty tenacious on it and you see how strong he is and how he gets the puck back all the time. He’s one of the best finishers around the net. Mitch is an elite passer but he can also get himself open to shoot and you’re seeing more of that this year.”
Defenseman Ron Hainsey also scored in Toronto’s three-goal first period and third-string goaltender Michael Hutchinson made 27 saves as the Maple Leafs beat the Devils for the third time in as many games.
Capitals 4, Bruins 2: BOSTON — Nicklas Backstrom scored in the third period after missing a game with an illness, helping Washington beat Boston for the 14th straight time.
Lightning 3, Hurricanes 1: TAMPA, Fla. — Brayden Point had a tiebreaking power-play goal in the third period and added a late empty-netter in NHL-leading Tampa Bay’s comeback victory.
Islanders 4, Rangers 3: NEW YORK — Josh Bailey scored with 1:26 remaining to lift the New York Islanders over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Oilers 4, Panthers 3: EDMONTON, Alberta — Connor McDavid had two goals — including the tying score with 8 seconds left in regulation — and also scored in the shootout, helping Edmonton beat Florida.
Blue Jackets 4, Predators 3: COLUMBUS, Ohio — Artemi Panarin scored his second goal of the night 1:22 into overtime to lift Columbus.
Wild 3, Jets 2: ST. PAUL, Minn. — Jason Zucker scored twice, giving Minnesota’s lagging power play a lift with his first goal and getting one later just after leaving the penalty box, and the Wild beat Winnipeg.
Blues 4, Canadiens 1: ST. LOUIS — Oskar Sundqvist had a goal and an assist and rookie Jordan Binnington made 28 saves to lead St. Louis.
Flyers 2, Stars 1: PHILADELPHIA — Carter Hart stopped 37 shots and Philadelphia ended an eight-game losing streak.
Coyotes 4, Canucks 3: VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Richard Panik scored his second goal of the game 4:10 into overtime to lift Arizona over Vancouver.
Senators 4, Kings 1: LOS ANGELES — Chris Tierney scored twice to lead Ottowa. Bobby Ryan had a power-play goal and Christian Wolanin also scored for the Senators.
Sharks 3, Golden Knights 2: LAS VEGAS — Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi scored third-period goals 39 seconds apart to lift San Jose over Vegas.