Leafs play in front of home fans for first time in 18 months

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TORONTO (AP) — John Tavares scored in his return from injury, the Maple Leafs played in front of their home fans for the first time in more than 18 months, and Toronto beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in the opener on the NHL’s pre-season calendar Saturday.

Jake Muzzin, Michael Bunting and Kurtis Gabriel had the other goals for the Leafs, while William Nylander and T.J. Brodie added two assists each.

Michael Hutchinson stopped 13 shots to get the win. Ian Scott started the third period in place of Hutchinson and made three saves before leaving with an undisclosed injury to send Toronto’s starter back into the crease.

Saturday’s game at Scotiabank Arena before 10,000 mask-wearing fans was the first event at the venue with paying spectators since March 2020 after the Ontario government relaxed COVID-19 restrictions Friday, allowing for 50% normal capacity.

Tyler Toffoli replied late for the Canadiens. Cayden Primeau allowed three goals on 21 shots for Montreal before giving way to Michael McNiven, who finished with 10 saves.

BLUES 3, WILD 1

ST. LOUIS (AP) — James Neal recorded a hat trick and Ivan Barbashev’s unassisted tie-breaking goal 5:02 into the third period lifted the St. Louis Blues to 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in the NHL exhibition season opener for both teams.

Brandson Saad’s tally with four minutes remaining in the first period opened the scoring, and Michael Frolik added a goal with 27 seconds left in the game.

Charlie Lindgren made 19 saves in the second and third periods to record the win for St. Louis. Ville Husso started and stopped all 10 Minnesota shots he faced in the first period.

Kaapo Kahkonen and Andrew Hammond each played half the game in goal for the Wild. Kahkonen started and made six saves on eight shots before being replaced by Hammond, who allowed three goals on 21 shots against.

Adam Beckman scored twice for the Wild.

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For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/ap_sports

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