TORONTO — Peeling off his equipment after the media had moved on from his locker-room stall, Nazem Kadri told one of Patrick Marleau’s sons that maybe someday the youngster will be the one sending passes to the Toronto centre.
For now, Kadri is just fine getting set up by his ageless linemate.
Kadri scored the winner off a slick feed from Marleau with 7:26 left in regulation as the Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 on Saturday to stretch their club-record home winning streak to 13 games.
Kadri buried his 29th goal of the season following a backhand saucer pass from Marleau that narrowly missed the skate and stick of sprawling defenceman Luke Witkowski on a 2-on-1 rush.
"Unbelievable," Kadri said of the pass that helped snap a 3-3 tie. "I knew when he took it to his backhand there was a chance it was coming across."
The Leafs, who split a tough two-game road trip earlier this week against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators, also tied a franchise high by picking up their 45th win.
The precision of the 38-year-old Marleau’s feed to clinch that victory left Kadri, who now has seven goals in his last five games at Air Canada Centre, shaking his head.
"Unexplainable," Kadri said. "Obviously he had the great vision to put it on my stick. I just tried to find a lane for him to create that pass, but it was all him."
Kadri, 27, also marvelled at how Marleau continues to excel at his age.
"I don’t know how he does it," Kadri said. "I couldn’t imagine when I’m (almost) 40 years old how I’m going to feel.
"He always seems to contribute, and he’s just got those great genetics."
Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown and William Nylander had the other goals for Toronto (45-23-7), which got 38 saves from Frederik Andersen.
Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Frans Nielsen replied for Detroit (27-37-11).
Jimmy Howard made 25 stops for the Red Wings, who are 1-11-1 over their last 13 games and about to miss the playoffs for the second straight spring after making the post-season 25 years in a row.
The Red Wings went ahead 3-2 at 4:58 of the third period when Nielsen sniped his 15th shortside over Andersen’s shoulder and off the camera inside the Leafs net from a tight angle. Initially waved off for goalie interference, the call was overturned after a coach’s challenge.
Nylander came back and tied it 2:29 later when he stole the puck from Nick Jensen and played a terrific give-and-go with Auston Matthews for his 16th.
Matthews now has a goal and an assist in two games back after missing 10 straight with a shoulder injury.
After Kadri put Toronto ahead, Andersen had a nervy moment with 3:36 to go when Gustav Nyquist’s shot from outside the blue line went off his glove and landed in the crease before he covered up.
"It was a fun game," said Andersen, who tied a career high with his 35th win of the season. "A lot of different kinds of goals, but a fun game and obviously a good win for us. We stepped up a little bit in the third."
Down 1-0 after the first, the Red Wings got back even at 4:32 of the second when the speedy Larkin took a stretch pass from Anthony Mantha and raced in alone before beating Andersen for his 12th.
"Detroit played really hard and made it hard on us," Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said. "We told our team before they were going to make it hard on us."
The visitors nearly went up 2-1 moments later when Leafs defenceman Ron Hainsey slashed Martin Frk on a breakaway, but Andersen closed the pads on the ensuing penalty shot.
Howard then robbed Andreas Johnsson at the other end with a desperation glove save off the rush before the Red Wings went in front when Bertuzzi tipped home his third at 9:37.
Despite being outshot 17-4 in the period to that point, Toronto equalized at 14:19 when Brown scored his 14th, and first in 15 games, on a tip off the post and in past Howard.
"We did tons of good stuff," Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill. "There were large moments in the game (where) we carried the play."
The Red Wings survived a 5-on-3 Toronto power play for 36 seconds midway through the first, but the Leafs eventually took the lead with 5:30 remaining in the period when Tyler Bozak fished a loose puck out of a sea of legs and fired a no-look pass to Kapanen for his seventh to open a what would turn into back-and-forth tilt.
"Resilient teams find a way," Kadri said. "That’s definitely what we did tonight."
Notes: James van Riemsdyk picked up the second assist on Kapanen’s goal to give the big winger 11 points in his last six games (eight goals, three assists). … Toronto hosts Buffalo on Monday.