Brown, Andersen lead Maple Leafs to victory after practice incident

Frederik Andersen had 36 stops as the Maple leafs beat the visiting Golden Knights.

TORONTO — When the day began, Frederik Andersen and Connor Brown weren’t even on speaking terms.

The tension was real after Brown inadvertently caught his goaltender in the mouth with a shot during Monday’s practice. Andersen dropped to the ice immediately and was in no mood to accept an apology in the heat of the moment. When a reporter asked how he felt afterwards, the Dane attached a caveat while responding that he was fine: "I want to f—— kill someone."

Fortunately, the storm clouds cleared before Tuesday’s visit by the Vegas Golden Knights.

"He wasn’t talking to me all yesterday," Brown told Sportsnet. "I sat beside him at lunch, though, and he forgave me."

"Yeah, we hashed it out," said Andersen.

It amounted to nothing more than a minor scrape between brothers-in-arms with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This sort of thing is to be expected during the rigours of a season. But it may have helped light a little fire under Brown, who opened the scoring against the Golden Knights and went on to have one of his better games of the year.

"I apologized [to Freddie] and then every time I skated by him on the ice I said ‘Sorry again,"’ he said.

The goal was penance enough. It was the first Toronto had scored in the opening two periods of a home game since Oct. 15, and the first Brown had put behind an actual goaltender since Game 5 of the Leafs’ first-round series against Boston last spring.

He was full value for the strike, too, after muscling Golden Knights defenceman Nick Holden off the puck and burying a high shot over Marc-Andre Fleury.

"If that’s what it takes to get him going, I’ll eat one every once in awhile," said Andersen. "I was happy he got on the scoresheet."

Every extra drop of production is appreciated with Auston Matthews rehabbing a shoulder injury and William Nylander back home in Sweden waiting for a new contract. John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly have done a fine job carrying the offensive load — Marner scored from Tavares again later in Tuesday’s game — but they can’t be expected to do it by themselves all the time.

Even though Brown is largely used in defensive situations by the Leafs, he believes he’s got a little more offence to give.

He scored 20 goals as a rookie and had 14 last season. The goal Tuesday was his second in 15 games to start Year 3, following an empty-netter in Dallas on Oct. 9, and gave a boost to a team that Mike Babcock feels needs to loosen up a bit when playing at Scotiabank Arena.

"That was great," Marner said of Brown’s opener. "That guy’s a workhorse, he gets on the forecheck every single time, he makes a lot of turnovers. He’s always tracking back and making it hard on other teams.

"I was super happy for him when he got that goal, he’s had so many chances that just haven’t bounced his way. I mean that was a pretty impressive shot — kind of flat-footed, in front of your body and get it up that quick — I think that takes a lot of pressure off his back."

Brown’s line with Par Lindholm and Andreas Johnsson was the only one to make any serious hay against Vegas. They kept the shot attempts at 50-50 on a night when the Golden Knights desperately put 37 pucks on Andersen.

As has often been the case this season, Andersen was the Leafs’ backbone and an easy choice for first star. He had some good fortune on his side in the form of three second-period goalposts but continues to play at an even higher level than his first two years in Toronto — sitting at a .929 save percentage through 13 appearances.

"It seems like he’s got no pressure on him," said Marner. "He just goes out there and has fun with it. He’s a pretty quiet guy but this year he’s opened up a lot. He jokes around a lot. He’s fun to be around.

"I think when he gets to the rink he’s a very serious guy. He really focuses and gets ready for the games. He’s a pro. He knows how to get it done right."

Andersen was the main reason the Leafs stole two points from Vegas with a 3-1 victory.

Given some of his past issues with head and neck injuries, it’s fortunate that the high shot from Brown did no more than anger him. Everyone inside the dressing room knows how vital he is to Toronto’s hopes to contend this season.

And with the way the last couple days played out with his goaltender, Brown was happy to contribute to the cause.

"Helped him out a bit," he said.

They can call it even and move on.

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