Ron Wilson knew he had to do some line up tinkering after Tuesday night’s abysmal effort against the Ottawa Senators.
The Leafs’ top two lines showed flashes of chemistry en route to a 4-1 triumph over the Senators at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night, halting their preseason scoring woes at one game.
Toronto got power-play goals from Nikolai Kulemin, Luca Caputi, and Phil Kessel in the first period, and Mikhail Grabovski finished off the scoring for the Maple Leafs. Francois Beauchemin and newcomers Jesse Blacker and Clarke MacArthur drew two assists apiece.
James Reimer and Ben Scrivens combined for 17 saves in the victory, and Senators’ goalie Brian Elliott took the loss.
Nick Foligno scored his second goal in as many days for the visitors’ lone marker of the game.
Caputi, a Toronto native, felt comfortable alongside linemates Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur, netting a goal and adding an assist, including a power-play marker in the first period.
“Luca had a really good game, and I wasn’t sure because he’s played with different guys in scrimmage,” said head coach Ron Wilson. “I popped him on a different line tonight and got him [playing] with Grabovski, and he did what we expected.
“He’s much bigger than he was last year, and it looks to me like he’s a half step quicker and that showed, especially on the second goal.”
Wilson is referring to the beautiful individual effort by the 21-year-old.
Caputi showed great poise with the puck in the second period after outhustling an Ottawa defender, peeling off the side boards and deliver a pin-point pass to Grabovski, who shelved his first pre-season goal at 13:48.
Another player to draw praise from the head coach was newcomer Clarke MacArthur.
“He’s very smart, and tonight is the first time I’ve ever coached him,” Wilson said. “I thought a few times he over-passed the puck, but he’s got a pretty good shot and it’s difficult for him because he’s trying to understand what [new linemate Grabovski] is doing.
“There seems to be some chemistry there.”
The team’s special teams seemed to have all the right ingredients, as the Leafs went 3-for-9 with the man advantage, and held Ottawa’s power play scoreless, going 0-for-5.
This was a change of pace for Toronto, which went 0-for-8 on the power play the night before.
When Francis Lessard and Danny Richmond got into a scrap in the corner in the first period this resulted in a double minor to the Senators and a roughing penalty to Richmond, giving the Leafs a power-play opportunity.
Toronto’s momentum with the man advantage began there. Kulemin and Kessel crashed the net, when Beauchemin took a point shot, and the 24-year-old stuffed it home for the Leafs’ first goal of the pre-season at 3:57.
“Beauchemin was cool, calm and collected in every situation [tonight],” said the Leafs’ bench boss. “[Both he and Komisarek] struggled last season, trying to do too much in every situation….If we can get off to a good start those guys can settle down too.”
Reimer looked solid in his first test on a short-handed break by Jesse Winchester, making a nice pad save off a deke attempt.
Later in the frame, and with David Hale already in the box, Erik Karlsson took a high-sticking penalty less than a minute later, giving way to a Leaf a 5-on-3 advantage as team flashed its top line again of Kulemin, Kessel and Bozak.
Thanks to a great cycling job from Blacker and Beauchemin, Kessel found himself alone at the side of the net and slid one under Elliott’s pads to hand Toronto a 2-1 advantage.
“….Phil scored a goal that only Phil’s going to score,” praised Wilson. “A quick wrist shot that surprised the goalie. That’s a little closer to what I hope our power play will look like.”
The power-play attack would strike again when Caputi poked in his first goal of the pre-season less than 30 seconds later. The tally put Toronto in front 3-1.
MacArthur notched his first point in the blue and white uniform on the goal, drawing an assist.
Toronto led 4-1 heading into the third and was outshooting its opponent by a 17-12 margin.
Scrivens came on to replace his counterpart midway through the frame, and was helped out by a great team defensive effort, as well as his left goal post, en route to shutting down the Senators’ attack.
Midway through the third, Roman Wick blasted a shot from the left point, deflecting off the frame of the net and staying out to preserve the Leafs’ lead.
Scrivens also withstood a barrage of Ottawa power-play opportunities late in the period, showing a composed demeanour.
The game opened with a feisty undertone, as tough guy Jay Rosehill and Hale dropped the gloves midway through the first period after Rosehill delivered a monstrous hit on Shannon, which left him kneeling on the ice in recovery.
Lessard was also a focal point, and not just for his penalty trouble. Komisarek nailed him along the benches, leaving him shaken up. The 31-year-old then tried to entice Colton Orr into a dance with the gloves off, but Leafs tough guy refuted the invitation.
Ottawa tied the game at 1-1 on a goal by Foligno at 9:23.
Reimer again showed his quick reflexes after Lessard took a nifty drop pass and gunned a one-timer in the goalie’s direction, allowing him to make a nice butterfly save midway through the first period.
Toronto went 3-for-5 with the man advantage in the first and outshot the Senators 12-5 in the frame.
Overall the home team outshot the visitors 30-18.