Leafs start the preseason with force

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The new Maple Leafs used a bit of Blue Jays jazz, showing defense, hitting, scoring, even some Bunting, in an expected return to near-normal home playing conditions.


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Yes, the spirited 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens doesn’t count, but after a summer in which their deficiencies were magnified in the playoffs, it was a dose of positivity on training ground before a half-filled Scotiabank Arena, advertised at 10,000.

Captain John Tavares returned with a power play tally: he and special teams were missed against the Habs at the end of the seven-game series, while his annoying newcomer Michael Bunting had a goal. His other GTA linemate Josh Ho-Sang also had a jump in transition.

Winger Kurtis Gabriel added a late goal and a fight at halftime to his first-game exploits and center Michael Amadio was added to a list of forwards trying to be recognized, scoring while centering Nick Robertson and Jason Spezza.


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There was a night of two assistants for William Nylander, nearly a goal in his daring first-inning run through the Habs to test starter Cayden Primeau. And many points of an assetblueline, an opening strike from Jake Muzzin (could have had a hat trick), two assistants from TJ Brodie, one from Rasmus Sandin.

Michael Hutchinson took the lead over the younger challengers for the No. 3 spot at the net, deflecting seven shots and in good position for some closer decisions before giving way to Ian Scott to start the third period. Scott, plagued with injuries, was promoted after Joseph Woll had a minor problem at camp Friday, but it only lasted five minutes, possibly injuring himself in a save.

It was the first of six shows for Toronto, which returns to Montreal Monday night with a different lineup selected from its 50-man camp. Without the rested Mitch Marner and with Auston Matthews injured, the other half of the team’s Core Four, Tavares and Nylander guided their lines well. Tavares’ ingenious pass sent Ho-Sang into a third period break, but Michael McNiven was there.


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The Canadiens, who also used a roster that mixed stars and hopefuls, had Cole Caufield, Tyler Toffoli and Nick Suzuki, though not as many recognized defenders. Toffoli blew the shutout with 1:56 left.

Gabriel, like Ho-Sang and Bunting, is a GTA area player looking for a steady job in the Toronto organization, preferably the Leafs rather than the OHL Marlies. Challenged by Brandon Braddock to box, he did well without missing a step on a fourth line withMarlie Rich Clune’s warhorse and draft pick center Semyon Der-Arguchintsev. When McNiven misplayed a puck, Gabriel had an empty net.

“A great night to start, get involved again,” Tavares said. “Our line had a great feeling, instinctively, for each other.”

Tavares said the Toronto connection probably doesn’t hurt, certainly his summer skates with Bunting.


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“I know both guys were excited today, playing in front of family and friends. I myself know the good feeling of being around so many people you grew up with. “

Muzzin said he stopped for a while to clear the ice to enjoy with fans.

“You don’t miss it until it’s over,” he said of the past 18 months. “For me, it was good to get one, have a few chances and get involved offensively.”

Bunting said he had a good support group to see his goal.

“It was nice to share that. They all grew up as fans of Leafs.

“My goal is to earn one of those places. This is just beginning for me right now. “

Johnny is an exceptional player, always in the right place. I’m just trying to get into the corner, put my body on the line, and retrieve records. I always knew that Sanger is very skilled since junior and he had a good night, creating a lot of opportunities. “

Head coach Sheldon Keefe said there was a lot to be liked in many aspects of the game, from the atmosphere to the special teams, killing two early minors and the punches and energy that Gabriel brought. But he said Scott will likely waste time with a groin injury.

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