Nazem Kadri gave the Leafs’ brass a little more to think about as the rookie scored his first two goals of the pre-season and set up the game-winner, lifting Toronto to a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night at Scotiabank Place.
On the winning goal, Kadri completed his breakout game by faking a shot on a quick break, and instead of shooting, showed great patience before finding his captain Dion Phaneuf, who fired a quick, low drive toward Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire.
Kessel then scored on a tip-in with 1:50 remaining in the third, registering his fifth goal of the pre-season.
Nikolai Kulemin opened the scoring for the Leafs in a penalty-filled first period.
With the Leafs on a 4-on-3 power play, Sens rookie defenceman Jared Cowen failed to clear the zone. Luca Caputi picked up the failed clearing attempt and dished to Kulemin, who cut into the zone and poked a backhand past Leclaire just over eight minutes into the contest.
Kadri first found the back of the net for the Leafs (4-2-1) on the power play with less than two minutes left in the first period, increasing Toronto’s advantage to 2-0.
After Francois Beauchemin circled the net, he placed a tape-to-tape pass on the stick of the speedy Kadri, who buried the puck behind Leclaire.
The Senators (2-4-0) tied the contest on a pair of second-period goals by Milan Michalek, Chris Campoli.
Ottawa then took the lead early in the third period as Campoli passed the puck behind the net to a wide-open Daniel Alfredsson who beat Toronto goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the blocker side.
But Kadri rallied Toronto with less than six minutes left in the third, finishing off the play by sliding the puck past Leclaire.
The game got off to a rough and competitive start as both teams dressed squads that should resemble their respective opening-night lineups.
In the first period alone, the teams combined for 38 penalty minutes, including a fight between Leafs bruiser Jay Rosehill and Senators pest Francis Lessard.
The game would finish with a combined 78 penalty minutes, which included four fighting majors and a 10-minute misconduct infraction to Lessard.
The Leafs’ defence targeted the Ottawa veterans as Mike Komisarek caught Alfredsson with his head down in the first, and just minutes later, Beauchemin put a streaking Alexei Kovalev on his rear-end.
In the second, the roughness continued when Beauchemin found an unlikely sparring partner in Kovalev. The two traded several blows despite the officials’ attempts to keep the pair apart.
Giguere finished the game with 22 saves, while Leclaire made 15 saves.