OTTAWA – If this was a sign of things to come, both the Ottawa Senators and Bobby Ryan should be feeling pretty good.
Ryan scored twice to lead the Senators to a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in pre-season action Wednesday night.
It was one of two split-squad games between the teams. Ottawa also defeated the Leafs 4-3 in a shootout in Toronto.
Ryan’s performance was reassuring for the 27-year-old who underwent surgery for a sports hernia in late March and hadn’t played since March 22.
“I just wanted to play at this pace with no pain and to be a difference in the game, for one,” said Ryan. “At the same time I just wanted to get some timing down and get back to some NHL settings and stuff like that. It was a good start, it was a stepping stone.”
Ryan said the true test will come Thursday when he sees how his body reacts to the game.
“It’s going to see the response from my ab area and my groin area, because I haven’t come off a night like this where you’re skating at that level,” said Ryan. “(Thursday’s) going to be a good test, but in my mind there were some things in practice that I felt it catch and stuff like that, where (Wednesday) it didn’t.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean was pleased with Ryan’s performance as well as linemates Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur, who continued to show great chemistry together.
Matt Puempel scored a power-play goal and Craig Anderson stopped 20 shots for the Senators.
Sam Carrick and Morgan Rielly scored for the Leafs. Antoine Bibeau allowed two goals on 18 shots while Cal Heeter, who came in midway through the second, allowed one goal on 17 shots.
The Leafs iced a young lineup in Ottawa and coach Steve Spott said he was impressed with how a number of those players handled the opportunity.
“We had some inexperience in our lineup with this group, but we competed really, really hard,” said Spott. “I think the difference was the quality of execution. We had some boys who were playing their first game at this level and you could see it at times, but I don’t want to take anything away from their effort. They played hard for us.”
Ottawa made it 3-1 on Ryan’s second goal of the game early in the third. Ryan tipped a Patrick Mullen point shot that Heeter couldn’t handle.
Ryan said he didn’t want to read too much into his performance, but also added it was hard not to feel good about the night.
“(This game) was a big test with everything going on around me to see how I could handle it,” said Ryan. “Yes it was a pre-season game, but it’s still a game and I still felt comfortable so it was great.”
With 26 seconds remaining, Rielly made it 3-2 as he beat Anderson high stick side.
The Leafs nearly tied the game in the dying seconds when Daniel Winnick hit the post.
After a scoreless first, the Senators jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Leafs made it 2-1 on Carrick’s goal midway through the period.
Ryan opened the scoring at the six-minute mark, beating Bibeau shortside. Then Puempel, who continues to make a good impression, tipped an Erik Karlsson point shot and then grabbed his own rebound to make it 2-0 to the delight of the 15,865 on hand.
Puempel played with Curtis Lazar and Buddy Robinson and MacLean said he was impressed with the trio’s success.
“I thought that whole line were pretty good as a threesome in Newfoundland as well in the game they played there,” said MacLean. “I thought their game was a real stabilizer for us.”
Carrick cut the lead in half as he was able to beat Anderson from in close.
Shots were 11-11 after the first period.
Ryan had two solid chances, but it was the second of the two that was most frustrating for Ryan as he took a pass from Clarke MacArthur and then put the shot right in Bibeau’s chest.
Notes: Ryan, Karlsson and Chris Neil all wore an “A” for the Senators. Winnik, Rielly and Colton Orr wore the “A” for the Leafs.