Easton Cowan shone as the Maple Leafs lost a second of back-to-back games to the Ottawa Senators 4-3 in overtime at Scotiabank Arena Monday night, in NHL pre-season action.
Toronto’s rookie forward, who was drafted 28th overall in the 2023 NHL draft, led the Leafs in points with a goal and an assist.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe had nothing but praise for the rookie’s pre-season and training camp following the loss.
“More of what he showed us in Traverse City (at the rookie tournament), and what he showed early in camp,” Keefe said following the game. “I thought he was outstanding. I’m on the bench and I’m trying to talk myself out of playing him to be honest.
“It’s hard not to, every time he’s out there he’s making something happen.”
The Strathroy native impressed many teams and scouts in Nashville prior to the most recent draft.
“I was in Nashville a few days before the draft working on some free agency stuff,” said Keefe. “The only name I heard all week when I was there was just Cowan, he was the guy.”
The 18-year-old was able to redeem himself after failing to score on a penalty shot in the first period when he ripped one point blank past Senators goalie Mads Søgaard on a Leafs power-play effort.
His second point came with an assist in an instant response to the Sens taking a 3-1 lead. Just 27 seconds later forward Joseph Blandisi found the back of the net at 16:50 in the first, for his opening goal of the pre-season.
Cowan was the game’s second-star.
It was a huge night for Sens’ defenceman Jakob Chychrun who scored two goals including the overtime winner.
The Florida native found himself with 30:01 ice time before slotting the puck in the back of the net off a rebound for the game winning goal.
Tyler Bertuzzi and Mitch Marner made their pre-season debuts, the former assisting the latter with six seconds remaining in the third to tie the game 3-3.
Before Marner’s late heroics, all five previous goals were scored in a flurry of first period action.
The Senators opened the scoring 1:16 into the opener on a giveaway in front of the net, right winger Roby Järventie (the only player playing from the night before) scored past Leafs goalie Joseph Woll from an assist by left winger Dominik Kubalik.
Leafs were wrapped up defensively as the Sens scored again 6:38 in the same frame with a shot from the blue line by defenceman Lassi Thomson which made its way through traffic, and was tipped by Kubalik above the left blocker of Woll increasing the lead 2-0.
Senators kept the scoring going as they increased the lead to 3-1, 16:23 in the first when Chychrun notched his first of the game and scored a slap shot from an assist by right winger Vladamir Tarasenko his first in a Sens uniform.
Superstar Auston Matthews made his pre-season debut as well with two shots on goal in 24:32 of ice time.