Leafs drop pre-season finale to Red Wings

Darren Helm of the Detroit Red Wings had a three-point night in his team's 4-2 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night (Courtesy Anna Enriquez). (DarrenHelm)

Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves each had a goal and two assists to help the Detroit Red Wings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 in pre-season action at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Tatar also scored for the Wings and Ty Conklin made 20 saves.

John-Michael Liles and Joey Crabb replied for Toronto, while James Reimer stopped 22 shots.

Abdelkader took advantage of a rebound given by Reimer off a Darren Helm shot that gave the Wings a 1-0 lead with seven minutes left in the opening frame.

Helm beat defenceman Matt Lashoff to the outside on the power play, drove to the net and fired a quick wrist shot that Reimer managed to save, but deflected directly onto the stick of Abdelkader, who was streaking hard and slid the puck into the open net.

Detroit increased its lead to 2-0 with just over two minutes to go in the first period, when Helm picked up the puck behind Toronto’s net and proceeded to wrap the puck around before Reimer had a chance to respond.

Liles, one of Toronto’s key off-season acquisitions, cut his team’s deficit in half with 1:30 remaining in the first with a powerful slap shot from the point that found its way past Conklin to make the score 2-1.

Grabovski leaves game with injured foot

Mikhail Grabovski assisted on the goal, increasing his pre-season point total to a team-leading seven (three goals and four assists).

But after taking a shot off the inside of the foot midway through the first, he played through the period but only went out for one more shift at the beginning of the second before calling it quits.

“When [Grabovski] went down we were getting our way back,” Ron Wilson said in the post-game press conference. “At that point it didn’t look good.”

Eaves reclaimed Detroit’s two-goal lead early in the second though as he outmaneuvered Jake Gardiner in front of Toronto’s net, managing to spin off the young defender and backhand the puck past a stretched-out Reimer.

The Blue and White replied promptly though, when Colby Armstrong threw a puck towards the net from the left corner, where Crabb had two whacks at the loose puck to make the score 3-2 early in the second.

Tatar gave Detroit its third two-goal lead of the game though with 9:47 remaining in the second on a power play. Reimer once again made the initial save but was unable to hold the rebound, allowing the Wings a 4-2 lead.

Less than five minutes into the game an uncovered puck in front of Detroit’s net caused a scrum that resulted in Mike Brown and former Maple Leaf Garnet Exelby dropping the gloves, igniting the 19,027 fans who were in attendance at the ACC.

Matthew Lombardi, another off-season acquisition by the Leafs, who hadn’t played an NHL game in 352 days due to a serious concussion, centred the first line between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

Lombardi played in place of the injured Tim Connolly, but the line was held pointless on the night.

“Unfortunately it’s been weird,” Wilson said about the mix-and-match lines. “The plan was to keep some lines together and it didn’t work out because of minor injuries, so practice this week will be important.”

While Toronto’s top line struggled, the Leafs’ go-to second line continued its success despite missing Clarke MacArthur due to a suspension handed out following an illegal hit to the head on Abdelkader in Friday’s first game against Detroit.

Toronto finished the pre-season with a 4-4-0 record and starts its regular season on Thursday against its long-time rival Montreal Canadiens. Detroit kicks off its season Friday against the Ottawa Senators.