KANATA – Just minutes before the puck dropped and hours after blessing young impact forward Brady Tkachuk with the second-richest contract in Ottawa Senators history, Pierre Dorion couldn’t help but smile.
On Tuesday night, cost-conscious owner Eugene Melnyk loosened the purse strings and gave his general manager the green light to lock out Tkachuk long-term.
“I have felt more powerful than ever,” smiled Dorion. And later: “We have the Leafs tonight.”
That surge of energy could have been transferred directly from Dorion to his players when the dizzying executive high-fives Tim Stützle before his pregame nap.
The Sens flew out the gates in their first home game Thursday, catching their Ontario rivals flat-footed and overworked Toronto goalkeeper Petr Mrazek in his Leafs debut.
Leaning on a noisy (though not entirely packed) crowd at the Canadian Tire Center, the home team led three pucks past the Czech goalkeeper before the bell rang mercifully in the first period.
Chris Tierney guided one with his foot. Former Leaf Tyler Ennis (who came into town in a PTO) took a spike shot with his torso, and Alex Formenton’s dagger arrived with just 1.4 seconds left on the clock.
Slow through the consecutive season opener, Toronto has now dug a hole before the nine-minute mark in its two games.
“We weren’t ready since the album crashed, and that was disappointing. He caught us off guard, frankly, because it was not a problem for us during the preseason and it was obviously not the way we want to go out, “coach Sheldon Keefe said of Wednesday’s win over Montreal.
“Now you come on the road here, playing against a new team that you know will be ready. They will be excited to play here today. We have to be sharp. “
And then the coach made an omen: “We didn’t give up much from 10 minutes into the first period onwards. But it could be over before it started. “
A poor own-zone draw by Pierre Engvall, slow feet on combined lines and an Ottawa header from goalkeeper Anton Forsberg resulted in a 3-2 loss for the Maple Leafs and a joyous Tkachuk Day in Kanata.
Credit Sens, DJ Smith, for putting together the cheapest NHL Opening Night list since the jump.
“Tremendous coach,” Keefe said. “He did a great job with that group last season. If that season ends with 82 games, they’re pushing for a playoff spot. “
Injuries accumulated on the insult of the Maple Leafs when Mrazek, who calmed down nicely in the second, did not take the ice for the final frame.
He’s out with a groin injury.
Jack Campbell performed admirably as cold relief, and the Leafs repulsed with goals from former Senator Jason Spezza and a scored William Nylander.
Unfortunately, Ottawa’s powerful push over the first 7:59 pm was all it took to secure victory.
For the Leafs, it ended … and then they started.
The second round of the Battle of Ontario takes place Saturday night in Toronto.
Tkachuk should be able to work his way up the lineup for that one.