The Ottawa Senators are a changed team, as they showed Friday night when they defeated the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 in their season opener.
The Senators did not beat the Maple Leafs last season, going 0-2-1 against them. They will have a chance to show that their turnaround is for real when the teams meet again in Ottawa on Saturday night.
The Senators, who were 30th of 31 teams in the overall standings last season, had not played a game in 310 days before Friday night because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Maple Leafs, who lost in the play-in round to the Columbus Blue Jackets in August, had won their opener on Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens, 5-4 in overtime.
Nine players appeared in their first game as Senators on Friday night, including former Pittsburgh Penguin goaltender Matt Murray, who stopped 20 shots in his 200th NHL game.
"Everybody did a heck of job," Murray said. "We had five guys all over the ice and we kept it to the outside. The guys blocked shots. That's what it takes to win. I just liked the entire effort."
Brady Tkachuk led the Senators with a goal and two assists. He had a goal and an assist during Ottawa's three-goal spurt in less than five minutes during the second period that broke open the game. He has two goals and six assists in seven career games against Toronto.
"It's an amazing feeling," Tkachuk said of the victory. "You miss those winning ways, and that's what we've got to preach here if we want to be a playoff team. Hopefully, we keep going and keep learning from the mistakes, but we got the two points. That's our goal. The pace of play and the physicality is going to determine that."
The Maple Leafs led 1-0 and 2-1 against the Senators.
"We just kind of let our foot off the gas," said Toronto center Auston Matthews, who has yet to score a goal this season. "I think we just were playing a little bit too loose, and that's a team that works hard, they're not going to go away. That's on all of us."
Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe sensed that his team "had stopped playing" after Alexander Kerfoot's goal gave Toronto a 2-1 lead at 9:15 of the second period.
"We lost three or four shifts in a row coming off of that goal," Keefe said. "As soon as we scored the goal, the message on the bench was that we need to keep pushing.
"The reality is when you score a goal like that and you had control of the period the way that we did scoring that goal, for us, if we want to be a team that's going to accomplish anything, the game should be over from there. We should be able to take care of the lead and then build on the lead. Obviously, we showed that we're not there yet."
Frederik Andersen started Toronto's first two games of the season and has allowed nine goals. Jack Campbell is expected to start in goal Saturday night for Toronto.
One of the players making his Senators debut was Tim Stuetzle, who turned 19 on Friday. The third overall pick in the NHL draft played 12 minutes against the Maple Leafs and did not record a point.
--Field Level Media
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|Ottawa Off vs Toronto Def|