TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs put the finishing touches on their pre-season by firing on all cylinders.
Now they hope they can carry that into October when the games count.
“Pre-season feels like it’s a month (or) two months long,” Auston Matthews said. “It’s just nice to get it over with and start the real thing.”
Matthews had a goal and two assists and Frederik Andersen made 16 saves as the Maple Leafs defeated Detroit Red Wings 5-0 in final tune-up game for both teams on Saturday.
Matthews finished training camp with five goals and three assists in four games.
Andersen allowed just one goal in four pre-season appearances.
“I haven’t really focused on the statistics or anything like that,” Andersen said of his game. “I just have the mindset where I’m focused on every day and every practice, and it appears like it’s working.”
The power play underwent significant changes when Paul McFarland was named an assistant coach in May. The Leafs scored three power-play goals against the Red Wings. All of them occurred in the second period. The team has employed an incentive-based approach to rolling out its power-play units.
“The way we do it here is if you score you’re going next and if you’re playing better than the other one you’re going next,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said following the team’s morning skate. “It doesn’t matter what your name is, who’s going right here, right now? We think we have enough personnel that we should be able to get them both going. That’s what we’re hopeful of.”
Detroit’s Jimmy Howard made 23 saves on 28 shots in two periods of work. Filip Larsson played the final 20 minutes in goal for Detroit.
The Maple Leafs opened the scoring in the first period when Matthews recovered a turnover committed by Dylan Larkin in the Red Wings zone. Matthews found Andreas Johnsson on the ensuing 2-on-1 and beat Howard for a 1-0 lead at 0:29.
Toronto controlled the pace for the opening 20 minutes and outshot Detroit 13-5.
The Maple Leafs added to their lead in the second period by taking advantage of another turnover.
With Jake Muzzin in the penalty box, Trevor Moore intercepted a pass from Mike Green and went two-thirds the length of the ice on a breakaway. He deked out Howard for an unassisted short-handed goal for a 2-0 lead at 6:01.
“Mooresy looks like a hockey player now,” Babcock said.
Toronto made it 3-0 when William Nylander scored on a wrist shot from the right circle for a power-play goal at 8:45. The Red Wings challenged the goal for offside. The call on the ice was upheld and Detroit was given a bench minor for the unsuccessful challenge.
“I knew it was in, but I didn’t know if it was offside,” Nylander said of his goal.
On the ensuing power play, Matthews scored his fifth goal of the pre-season to give Toronto a 4-0 lead at 9:50. The Leafs got their third power-play goal of the period when Matthews deked around Danny DeKeyser while going to the net.
Matthews would then pass the puck with his backhand to John Tavares, who was parked in front of the net to bury the puck past Howard at 16:34.
“I was just trying to be available at the net,” Tavares said of Matthews’ pass. “he made a hell of a move just to created some space, it was just nice to get it.”
Toronto outshot Detroit 16-6 in the second period.
Matthews is facing a charge of disorderly conduct and disruptive behaviour stemming from an alleged incident in May in his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and the player was not arrested.
The game was a final tuneup for both teams before the regular season gets underway. The Maple Leafs and Red Wings iced lineups that could resemble their regular-season rosters.
Toronto opens the regular season against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night.
David Alter, The Canadian Press