When Mike Komisarek took a reckless first-minute holding penalty, you could almost see the Maple Leafs coaching staff reaching for their tranquilizer guns.
But this will be the new Komisarek, the reliable defenceman who won't run amok to his team's regret. Before Wednesday's first period against Ottawa was over, he'd delivered the hit of the night, sending Francis Lessard through rinkside analyst Pierre McGuire's front porch to set the tone for a 4-1 Toronto win to even their pre-season record at 1-1. Around the start of last season, the too-eager-to please Komisarek went way over the top, contributing to the Leafs' awful start.
"Ron Wilson told me today not to try and get the Gordie Howe hat trick in the first shift," joked Komisarek, playing his first real game since January shoulder surgery. "There was a lot of rust, but all in all, we did some good things with the puck and we played tight defensively. But let's not plan the parade route yet."
Komisarek ended the night on the same note he started, two rasslin' matches with Ottawa's Cody Bass.
"It's just in his nature, he wants to show everyone he's worth the money that we paid him (five years averaging $4.5 million US)," Wilson said. "If our team is going to play well around him, he'll settle down.
"And look how (defence partner Francois) Beauchemin played tonight; cool, calm and collected in every situation."
The Leafs did away with the fancy table setting from an 0-for-8 power play the night before and went meat and potatoes with pucks to the net. The result? Three goals with the man advantage, including a pair on a 5-on-3.
"We had two bigger guys willing to go in there in Nikolai Kulemin and Luca Caputi," Wilson said of the scorers. "And then Phil (Kessel) scores a goal that only Phil can score (winning the draw and snapping a five-hole wrist shot)."
On Tuesday, quarterbacks Dion Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle looked too jumpy in the 5-0 loss. In fairness, Wilson has had no time to concentrate on any special teams with 60-plus bodies at camp to sort through. But simple shots on net, two by junior Jesse Blacker on Sens goalie Brian Elliott, led to success.
The Leafs killed the early Komisarek penalty, out-shot Ottawa 1-0 in the process and scored on their first advantage. Now if the Leafs could only drag that last-place penalty killing unit into some semblance of order. Toronto killed five off last night,
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The first star in Wednesday's game was centre Mikhail Grabovski, who saw a lot of time on different lines and had begged Wilson to let him show off some penalty-killing skills. Grabovski needed a big game, for one to counter the Nazem Kadri hype and get his mind off a lawsuit that a B.C. couple just launched against him stemming from an incident at the Vancouver Olympics.
"He keeps on telling me he was one of the best at killing penalties at the world championships a couple of years ago and he was" Wilson said. "It's a different kind of kill here on a smaller rink and you have to be more willing to block a shot. But he did a good job."
It was a strong debut for the projected first line of Tyler Bozak, between Kessel and Kulemin, with Bozak only suffering in the faceoff department against Ottawa's Jesse Winchester. Winger Jerry D'Amigo also looked more relaxed in his second game.
Clarke MacArthur also came through with a nice takeaway, which triggered Grabovski's clinching goal late in the second period. MacArthur is projected to play on a speed n' spunk third line with Fredrik Sjostrom and Grabovski, once Sjostrom is cleared for contact after shoulder surgery.
"I'm starting to visualize on the bench about what our lines should be," Wilson said. "Hopefully next week we'll be able to tweak things closer to where we want them."
A couple of Toronto area kids trying to impress the bosses were prominent on the scoresheet.
Blacker had a pair of assists and Caputi jumped on a loose puck for a goal, followed by an assist on Grabovski.
"I was here a few times to watch the Leafs and with friends and my dad, but the first time to put on that jersey was really special," Blacker said. "In warm-up, you couldn't get the smile off of my face."
Blacker has a year of junior eligibility remaining, but has done well in two straight Leaf camps.
"Luca's played with different guys in scrimmages and nothing has really happened for him," Wilson added. "But he looks much bigger and a half a step quicker."
Some of the best Leafs goalie have come from Manitoba, such as Turk Broda, Ed Belfour and Ken Wregget.
James Reimer is a long way from making the big team, but the lanky Winnipeg native played steady enough in his half game, stopping Winchester on a short-handed breakaway. Reimer has to worry about two new threats to his job with the Marlies, Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas. Scrivens, the Cornell graduate, took over at the game's halfway point after Reimer stopped seven of eight. Scrivens' made 10 saves, the best a butterfly on a 2-on-1 wrist shot by Bobby Butler.
Kessel had seven of the Leafs' 29 shots ... For the second straight game, a Colton Orr - Matt Carkner rematch did not take place, this time with Orr dressed but Carkner out...There was a nice scoreboard tribute to Aut Erickson, an unliklely part of the Leafs' 1967 Stanley Cup team, who played one playoff game on defence and got his name on the chalice. The Lethbridge native died during the summer...Wilson on Lessard knocking over McGuire when deposited by Komisarek: "I was trying to get Pierre out of there. I'll probably get a pat on the back from a lot of coaches. But Pierre knows I'm kidding." ... Odd to watch D'Amigo wear 71, Mike Foligno's old number, while Foligno's son Nick has his Dad's call sign for Ottawa.