OTTAWA – If the Toronto Maple Leafs are to contend this season, they’re going to need James Reimer to be at his best.
The Leafs goaltender had his share of struggles Tuesday night, but he had a solid second half as Toronto earned a come-from-behind 5-3 exhibition victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Daryl Boyce scored the game winner early in the third period, giving the Leafs their first lead of the night.
Mikhail Grabovski had a goal and two assists for the Maple Leafs and John-Michael Liles, Nikolai Kulemin, Darryl Boyce and Clarke MacArthur each scored once.
Reimer picked up the win, his first of the pre-season, stopping 32 shots. He rebounded after giving up three goals in the first period.
“Not the first period we would have liked to have, specifically me,” Reimer said. “Obviously it was a bit of a tough one, but I liked the way we battled back. We never got scrambly or panicky we just settled nicely in the second and third and played our game and were lucky enough to come out with the win.”
Mika Zibanejad, Zack Smith and Nick Foligno scored for the Senators. Robin Lehner faced 31 shots.
The Senators lost Peter Regin early in the first period after colliding with Liles. He injured his shoulder, the same on which he had surgery last season and his condition is expected to be updated Wednesday.
It was a tough night for the goaltenders, who both gave up a couple of soft goals.
The Senators jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Zibanejad, who continues to make it harder for the Senators not to include him on the opening night roster, and Smith, who caught Reimer moving side-to-side to beat him on the short side.
“I’m not so happy because we lost,” said Zibanejad, who now has three goals. “It’s always nice to score, but it’s kind of hard to be happy about it because we lost.”
If Regin’s injury is serious it could create an opportunity for Zibanejad, who has had an extremely strong showing throughout training camp.
The Leafs tied the game with a short-handed goal by Grabovski and a power-play goal by Liles.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson has been pleased with the performance of the line of Grabovski, MacArthur and Kulemin and is hopeful the threesome will carry their productivity into the regular season.
“I think they started a little slow in the scrimmages…but they’re getting out of summer speed and hitting fall speed right now which is a good thing for us,” Wilson said. “They were our best line last year and they look, right now, like our best line going into the season.”
The Senators ended the first period leading 3-2 as Foligno dug the puck out of a pileup in the crease and pushed it past Reimer.
Toronto made it 3-3 midway through the second as Kulemin pushed the puck in from under Lehner’s glove after the goalie failed to smother it tightly.
“We played real well through the first half of the first period and then took a penalty that ended up getting us in trouble,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “As the game wore on I thought we started to skate less and less and ended up playing too much time in our own end and our structure failed us.”
The Leafs took the lead for the first time in the opening minutes of the third as Boyce tipped the puck past Lehner.
MacArthur scored with less than two minutes remaining in regulation to seal the victory.
The Senators wrap up their pre-season Thursday against the Bruins in Boston, while the Leafs head to Detroit Thursday for the first game of a home-and-home series against the Red Wings.
Notes: Senators G Craig Anderson and G Alex Auld are both nursing minor injuries and are listed day-to-day. The Senators placed RW Mark Parrish, C Corey Locke, D Tim Conboy and RW Francis Lessard on waivers.