Nazem Kadri scored the shootout winner along with the game-tying goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in front of 18,910 fans at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.
Viktor Stalberg also scored for Toronto (4-1-0), while Ryan Bayda and Chris Conner scored for the Penguins (1-3-0). The Leafs have now won four straight pre-season games after losing their opener 3-2 to Boston on Sept. 16.
The Penguins lineup looked much different than the one that won the Stanley Cup in June.
Stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and Marc-Andre Fleury were out of the lineup, and getting the nod on Tuesday were players like Bayda, Conner, Robert Bortuzzo on defence and Brent Johnson in goal.
Down 2-1 with 1:08 to go in the third, Kadri tied the game as he got a handle on a puck that went off a Pittsburgh defender and shot it past Penguins goalie John Curry.
“All it takes is one moment to change the outcome of a game and [Kadri] did it by being in the right spot at the right time to pick up the loose puck and bury it.” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson.
The Penguins dominated possession in the Leafs zone early on and it paid off as Bayda opened the scoring at 1:43 of the first period, beating Vesa Toskala who was screened on the play.
“It was hard for all of us tonight,” Wilson said. “In the first period we had zero energy. I don’t know if we were tired or what but as the game went on, we got a little bit better.”
Conner put Pittsburgh up 2-0 at 12:48 on a short-handed breakaway.
It took the Leafs almost nine minutes to get their first shot on goal as they were outshot 8-0 during that span.
Toronto outshot Pittsburgh 32-28 through 65 minutes.
Stalberg trimmed the deficit to 2-1 at 7:53 when he tapped the puck past Johnson who was on his back after a shot from Tyler Bozak was redirected to the Swedish winger.
Toskala stopped 26 shots for the Leafs.
“[Goaltending coach] Francois Allaire has had a positive affect on him,” Wilson said. “He wasn’t moving all over the place in the shootout and he stopped two. After the first period, he settled down and played a good game.”
Johnson played the first two periods for Pittsburgh and stopped 14 shots. Curry entered the game in the third and stopped 16.
Neither team scored on the powerplay as Toronto went 0-for-6, while Pittsburgh was shutout on three chances.
Jamal Mayers was hurt on a collision with Pittsburgh’s Tim Wallace in the second period and did not return.
Six rookies were in action Tuesday night — Stalberg, Bozak, Kadri, Christian Hanson, Carl Gunnarsson and Jay Rosehill suited up for the Leafs.
Hanson, Bozak and Stalberg were all on the starting line and chipped in on Toronto’s goal.
NOTES: Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson skated for the first time on Tuesday morning since undergoing a minor heart procedure last week. He did not dress in Tuesday night’s game … Andre Deveaux, Alex Foster, Ryan Hamilton, and Ben Ondrus were reassigned to the Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate Toronto Marlies Tuesday afternoon.