Kadri leads Leafs, but will it be enough?
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs' Francois Beauchemin punches Ottawa Senators' Alexei Kovalev. (REUTERS/Blair Gable)
OTTAWA — Maybe it was just a slump at the most inopportune time of his career.
Or maybe Nazem Kadri isn’t quite ready to become a full-time NHLer. Whatever the case, when the much scrutinized Leafs rookie scored his first two goals of the pre-season Wednesday night at Scotiabank Place, it couldn’t have rained on a drier spot.
A three-point night helped the Leafs to a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators in what had to be a huge relief for the beleagured 19-year-old
Playing on a top like with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak, Kadri’s third-period beauty to tie the game — rediscovered the flash he showed a year ago and again through a big-scoring junior season.
“Obviously, he had a good game, but you pick your team on a body of work, not just one game,” coach Ron Wilson said.
On the unassisted goal, Kadri made a great drag move to undress the Ottawa defence then fired it high past Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire.
And for his final act, Kadri set up the game winner when he fed a pass to captain Dion Phaneuf whose shot was deflected into the Ottawa net by Kessel with 1:50 remaining.
“It was about time I did something out here,” Kadri said. “Playing with two great players made it so much easier for me.”
Tough to say whether it was enough to salvage Kadri’s tenure with the big club — it may be too little, too late. But if nothing else, the kid’s confidence got a much-needed boost.
There may be a bunch of new faces on Leafs, but Thursday anyway, they seemed prepared to breathe some new life into the Battle of Ontario. The big three Leafs defenceman - Mike Komisarek, captain Dion Phaneuf and Francois Beauchemin came out determined to deliver a message with a number of crunching hits early in the first ... It certainly looked like the Leafs were targetting Ottawa’s skill forwards, something for them to think about when the teams meet in the second regular-season game on Oct. 9 ... Hit of the night probably goes to Komisarek, who nailed Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson who cruised into the Toronto corner with his head down. Komisarek was promptly mugged by Ottawa’s Milan Michalek, setting the tone for a long night of skirmishes ... Fight of the night was a duke-out between the Leafs Francois Beauchemin and an unlikely Sens dance partner, Alex Kovalev ... The Toronto defenceman was the easy winner as you might expect. According to hockeyfights.com, Kovalev has only had three regular-season fights in his NHL career, the most recent being in the 2005-06 season ... Props to Kovalev, nonetheless. He whipped off his helmet and did a little shadow boxing before getting down to business ... Since Leaf fans in the house booed Ottawa captain Alfredsson every time he touched the puck, Sens fans responded by laying the same on Leafs counterpart, Dion Phaneuf ... Leafs fan tweet of the night: “Ha ha Mr. Underwood” after Mike Fisher, otherwise known as Carrie Underwood’s husband) didn’t quite drop the clubs in a potential skirmish with Leafs enforcer Jay Rosehill.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke have to be encouraged by the continued production from Nikolai Kulemin, who opened the scoring with his fifth of the training camp schedule ... Who knows what value to put on pre-season goals vs. regular-season ones but consider this: Kulemin scored his fifth goal in Game 23 last year. He has five goals in five friendlies ... Big credit to Luca Caputi on two counts on Kulemin’s goal, a power-play effort. First, he kept the puck in the zone on a clearing attempt by the Sens and second, he fired a perfect pass to an open Kulemin. Say this about Caputi - the numbers may be against him, but he’s doing everything he can to get off the bubble ... One of the things Kadri will need to show, if in fact he is sent down to the Marlies. There is an are to making a hit and taking one and it’s different in the NHL then in junior and Kadri seems to be knocked off his feet a little too easily.
Have to figure goaltending is high on the list of concerns for the Leafs heading into the season. Staked to a 2-0 lead, Leafs starter J-S Giguere gave it all up and more, the second time in two complete games he’s surrendered a two-goal lead ... Giguere had bad luck on one of the Sens’ second goal, a wrister from Chris Campoli that appeared to ping pong off a pair of Leafs, including Colton Orr. Of course Giggy may have had a fighting chance at that one if one of his defenceman had cleared Kovalev from his crease ... The Leafs missed a great chance to tie it midway through the third on a nice Kadri to Kessel to Bozak play. Unfortunately the last leg of those passes didn’t quite get to Bozak, who had an empty net ... The Sens took the lead with three goals in an 11:54 span late in the second and into the third ... Giguere dodged a bullet in the second when Zack Smith banged one off the inside of the left post. The rebound landed right on Nick Foligno’s stick and the Ottawa forward missed the wide-open net.