LONDON, Ont. – The fans at John Labbatt Centre may have come to see local favourite Nazem Kadri, but his linemates Colby Armstrong and Kris Versteeg stole the show.
Armstrong scored the game-tying goal, then added the winner in the 11th round of a shootout as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in NHL pre-season action Thursday.
With the Maple Leafs trailing 2-1 in the third period, Armstrong beat Philadelphia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to send the game to overtime.
The Leafs’ free-agent acquisition then finally ended the lengthy shootout, to the delight of the London crowd which didn’t seem to care that the Flyers were the official home team.
“It had to be done. I think the refs had to get to a game in Montreal,” Armstrong quipped of his shootout winner.
Versteeg assisted on the tying goal and was impressive all night, showing some of the drive that made him so effective for the Chicago Blackhawks last spring in their Stanley Cup victory over the Flyers.
The Leafs acquired Armstrong and Versteeg in the off-season to shake up an offence that had trouble scoring last season.
Greg McKegg also scored for the Leafs. Marc-Andre Bourdon and veteran Bill Guerin replied for the Flyers.
The Leafs improved to 2-1-0 on the pre-season while the Flyers fell to 1-0-1.
Kadri, a former star for the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, is expected to crack the Maple Leafs’ lineup this season. But while the Leafs’ top draft choice a year ago played on a line with Armstrong and Versteeg, he didn’t get much room during the game from the tight-checking Flyers.
He did show his skills in the shootout, scoring first for the Leafs with a nifty deke.
Armstrong said Kadri just needs time to adjust to the NHL’s style.
“I played three and a half years in the minors. It took me a little time to get the kind of skills Naz has already,” Armstrong said. “It will take him time to adjust to playing at this level. He’s used to beating guys all the time (in junior). It will be harder here.”
Luca Caputi and Christian Hanson had Toronto’s other shootout goals while Jeff Carter, Guerin and Joonas Lehtivouri counted for Philadelphia.
After a defensive first period in which Bourdon scored the only goal, the game opened up a little in the second period with both teams getting decent chances.
Versteeg made nice play breaking in from the right wing when killing a penalty and forcing Flyers goalie Brian Boucher to make a good save.
The Leafs pressed hard during a power play and were rewarded when McKegg scored shortly after the Flyers returned to full strength. But the cheering hadn’t stopped when Guerin put the Flyers ahead again with an unassisted goal.
Both teams got steady goaltending. Toronto’s James Reimer, who came in to replace starter Jonas Gustavsson midway through the second period, stopped James van Riemsdyk on a penalty shot in the third.
Reimer, considered a good prospect, played for the Marlies last year and is expected to return there. He said when he’s watching hockey he enjoys shootouts, and he proved it by allowing just three goals on Philadlephia’s 11 shootout attempts.
Boucher was strong in the two periods be played, before giving way to Bobrovsky at the start of the third period.
Earlier Thursday, the Leafs announced that 12 players had been released from their training camp roster. Reassigned to their respective junior A clubs were forwards Jamie Devane (Plymouth, OHL), Josh Nicholls (Saskatoon, WHL), Ken Ryan (Windsor, OHL) and defenceman Barron Smith (Peterborough, OHL). Toronto also sent forwards Richard Greenop, Justin Hodgman, Dale Mitchell, Mikhail Stefanovich to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, along with defencemen Josh Engel, Drew Paris and goaltender Andrew Engelage. Forward Mike Liambas was released from his amateur tryout contract.