John Tavares scored in his first game since being injured last season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in the NHL preseason opener at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Saturday.
“For me it was a long time since the last time I played, considering how it ended,” Tavares said. “It was good to get out there and get involved and feel the game again. … I’d be lying if I said it was just a normal preseason game.”
Tavares gave Toronto a 2-0 lead 1:55 into the second period with a power-play goal. The center had not played since a concussion and knee injury sustained in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round against the Canadiens on May 20.
“Any time you play your first game of the year, coming off a long offseason, you’re excited to get an opportunity to compete again and play a game,” Tavares said. “You start to get a good feel for where you’re at with the things you’ve been working on. But it didn’t end on a great note last year, obviously, personally. You never want to go through something like that, but it happened, and I just continue to push forward. I had a great response and felt good, had a great offseason, and this game was sort of the next hurdle.”
Jake Muzzin, Michael Bunting and Kurtis Gabriel scored for Toronto. Michael Hutchinson made 12 saves, and Ian Scott made three.
Tyler Toffoli scored a third-period goal for Montreal. Cayden Primeau saved 18 of 21 shots, and Michael McNiven allowed one goal facing nine shots.
“I talked with John a lot and he really wanted to play, really wanted to get this one on the books,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I thought he looked strong and confident. … Lots of good things to come out of this one for him.”
Blues 6, Wild 2: James Neal, with the St. Louis Blues on a professional tryout, scored a hat trick in a 6-2 win against the Minnesota Wild in their preseason opener at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday.
The forward gave the Blues a 2-0 lead at 2:22 of the second period, made it 4-2 5:20 into the third period, and scored an empty-net goal for a 5-2 lead with 53 seconds left.
Brandon Saad, in his debut with St. Louis after signing as a free agent, scored in the first period.
Ivan Barbashev and Michael Frolik (also on a tryout) scored for St. Louis, Ville Husso made 10 saves without allowing a goal, and Charlie Lindgren made 18 saves.
Adam Beckman scored twice for the Wild to tie it 2-2. Kaapo Kahkonen allowed two goals facing eight shots. Andrew Hammond made 18 saves on 21 shots.
NHL.com independent correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report