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TORONTO (AP) — Connor Brown is having fun playing for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.
On Thursday night, the 22-year-old rookie came through with the best game of his career in from of the home fans.
Brown had two goals and two assists for a career-high four points to lead the Maple Leafs to a 6-1 victory over the Florida Panthers for their seventh win in nine home games.
"It really is a dream come true playing in your home city," Brown said. "I was a Toronto Maple Leaf fan my whole life. It's a pretty awesome experience."
Mitch Marner had another impressive goal, and Leo Komarov, James van Riemsdyk and Jake Gardiner also scored for the Maple Leafs. Nazem Kadri had two assists and Frederik Andersen stopped 27 shots.
All but one of Toronto's eight wins this season have come at home.
"I think every time you step on home ice you still can't believe it," said Marner, who grew up in nearby Thornhill, Ontario. "A hundred years of this team and luckily enough we're part of that now."
The win spoiled Florida goalie James Reimer's first start in Toronto since leaving the Maple Leafs in the offseason. Reimer finished with 24 saves an d Aaron Ekblad scored the lone goal for the Panthers.
The Maple Leafs got to their former goalie quickly, scoring three times in the first period — including two by Brown.
Brown deflected Morgan Rielly's point shot past a surprised Reimer nearly six minutes in. The goal was initially ruled off for a high stick, but was later overturned on video review.
After Ekblad evened the score at 1-1 with only his fourth point of the season — all goals — Brown scored again. This time, he eluded a check along the boards by Ekblad, continued a hard drive down the right side of the ice and then flung a shot on goal as he avoided a diving Jason Demers.
Brown crashed into the boards and popped up with a visor full of snow after the shot beat Reimer, who was taken aback by the goal once more.
Signed to a five-year, $17 million deal in the summer, Reimer is 2-3-1 record in his first seven games with Florida.
Marner padded the lead to two as he gained control of the puck just inside the Florida blue line, took a step on defenseman Michael Matheson and then made a series of dekes to beat Reimer.
He was still fighting off the advances of Matheson prior to scoring, waiting until the last possible moment to slide the puck from backhand to forehand, tucking it just around the left pad of the goalie.
"I was really committed on going to the backhand," Marner said. "Last second, I kind of just wanted to try and make a move and see what happens."
Marner now has six goals and 10 points in his last seven games, trailing only Winnipeg winger Patrik Laine in rookie scoring (16 points).
Brown added his third point when he lofted a pass to Komarov on a Toronto rush, the Finnish winger flipping a shot past Reimer for the 4-1 lead. He notched his fourth point on Gardiner's third of the year late in the third.
The line of Brown, Komarov and Kadri not only managed to score a bunch but shut down the Panthers top unit, which features Aleksander Barkov and 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr.
"We can play him against real good players, which is positive," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said of Brown, who was playing in only his 24th game.
Van Riemsdyk, coming off his first hat trick as a Leaf on Tuesday, got the Leafs' fifth goal late in the second. He picked off a flubbed pass by Dylan McIlrath in the Florida zone and beat Reimer.
NOTES: Van Riemsdyk has a team-leading eight goals and 17 points. ... Toronto rookie sensation Auston Matthews remained without a goal for the 11th consecutive game. The 19-year-old has only two assists in that span. ... Brown's previous career high of three points also came against Florida late last season. ...
Panthers: At Ottawa on Saturday night.
Maple Leafs: At Montreal on Saturday night.
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