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The Toronto Maple Leafs did well enough on their three-game California road trip to show a lot of their goals are no longer just dreamin’.

Following 5-1 and 5-3 wins over the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, respectively, a number of things fell into place for the Leafs that had been the subject of much talk and not always action. The first was their depth, which is being tested by the shoulder injury to Auston Matthews and the absence of William Nylander thanks to a contract dispute. Thursday’s win against the Sharks, one of the better teams in the NHL’s Western Conference even if its record doesn’t reflect it, showed the Leafs can now look for scoring from their bottom six forwards.

“That’s been our story, our depth,” Leafs centre Nazem Kadri said. “We talked about it for so long it’s good to put it to use.”

Josh Leivo and the fourth line produced a big goal for the Leafs in the second period in San Jose. It tied the score and started a run of three consecutive goals that finished off the Sharks. There were also two goals from Kasperi Kapanen (one short-handed), who is the de facto replacement for Nylander, and a strong two-way game from Par Lindholm and the third line. Plus, once again, outstanding goaltending from Frederik Andersen, who stopped 42 shots and even fired a pass more than 100 feet up the ice for an assist on a Mitch Marner goal.

“Huge. Contributions from everybody, so that’s nice to see,” Kadri said. “It gives the top six a bit of a relief when they come in and play with [offensive]-zone pressure like they did, especially cash in on their opportunities. We’re going to look for that in the future and it sure made a difference [Thursday].”

The Leafs also showed in the win over the Sharks that they are not easily intimidated, even if the roster was purged of the last of its tough guys after Kyle Dubas took over as general manager last summer. Since this was the first game between the teams since Kadri famously ripped out a handful of Sharks forward Joe Thornton’s massive beard in a wrestling match last January, the Sharks went after Kadri as soon as the first puck was dropped. Kadri gave as good as he got and the Leafs scored just after their resulting power play ended.

Then, after a sag late in the first period, the Leafs turned up the afterburners. They showed the Sharks you can’t intimidate what you can’t catch, which is in itself the new intimidation in today’s NHL.

“I think it was pretty clear their game plan was to try and push us around, use their size to their advantage,” Kadri said. “We have an identity of our own and that’s speed. We don’t have guys that stay down and give up, so a good win for our group.”

The goals are still not coming in bunches for the third and fourth lines. But enough are coming to be a sign of encouragement from a group that has not been consistently productive. For example, it took Andreas Johnsson until Nov. 9 to score his first goal of the season but the third-line winger scored again this week in the Kings game and played well enough to earn 14 minutes of ice time in both that game and against the Sharks.

“I feel we’re not playing as much so anytime we can spark the boys a bit, it’s a great help,” Leivo said of the contributions of his line and the third unit.

Overall, the 13-6 Leafs are now one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league and are looming over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Leafs’ 3.58 goals per game is second in the NHL.

Oh, and that defence that was supposed to be their Achilles heel? Morgan Rielly led all NHL defencemen in points with 24 points in 19 games before Friday’s games. And the group is at least partly responsible for Andersen’s sparkling .934 save percentage.

If the hockey gods are willing, there may be more good news for the Leafs on Sunday. That is when Matthews is expected to participate in his first full practice with contact since he was injured Oct. 27. Since his absence was forecast for a minimum of four weeks, it is probably too much to expect him to play in Monday’s home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets but a return is at least now in sight, although head coach Mike Babcock was quick to put the brakes on expectations.

“He’s got to get the work in,” Babcock said. “It doesn’t matter where you are, when you come back, it’s the NHL, it’s a fitness league. Everyone else is bumping and grinding and used to it. You have to get back up to pace.”

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