NEWARK, N.J. – John Tavares is already one of the greatest scorers of his generation.
A half season in his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he is working on one of the best seasons ever by a free-agent signing in the NHL.
Tavares scored two more goals on Thursday – 300 and 301 of his career – to lead Toronto to a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
He is well on the way to overcoming his career-high 38 goals after scoring 29 times in 43 games. Only Alex Ovechkin of Washington (31) has more this season.
After Ron Hainsey opened the scoring against the Devils, Tavares went to work. He took a rebound from Jake Gardiner and shot Keith Kinkaid at 7:21, becoming the first member of the 2009 draft class to reach 300 career goals.
Tavares made it 3-0 in Toronto just before the first break, having been left with an open net thanks to some excellent passes for ice crosses from Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner.
Devils started the switch in the second period, scoring Blake Coleman and Brian Boyle with 26 seconds left. Coleman shot the tip before folding the rebound, while Boyle defeated Michael Hutchinson.
They were disconnected from there.
Tavares took a good look at his second hat trick since joining Leafs but failed to beat Kinkaid in the last 20 minutes. Mitch Marner struck out in an empty net.
Visitors were happy to return home with two points after going through a period of 7-5-2 in the last month.
"There will always be ups and downs, we talk about it all the time, you need to keep your lows really low," said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. "Suddenly, we are in a period of time here that we have not been so good. We have to be better.