TORONTO — A few more nights like this from Thomas Chabot and the blow of losing Erik Karlsson might begin to ease ever so slightly for fans of the Ottawa Senators.
The 21-year-old defenceman scored twice, including the winner on a great individual effort, as Ottawa defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on Saturday.
Chabot, who also set up his team’s first goal, sliced into the offensive zone, put the puck through the skates of rookie Toronto blue-liner Igor Ozhiganov and beat Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen upstairs to snap a 3-3 tie at 1:42 of the third period.
The Senators (1-0-1) are a franchise in the midst of a rebuild after a number of off-ice issues and the trading of Karlsson — their captain and star defenceman — to the San Jose Sharks in a six-player swap on the eve of training camp, but have looked good with their speedy, young roster through two games.
"You saw the offence … the ceiling’s high," Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher said of Chabot. "He’s going to become just as good defensively over time.
"I have so much faith in him."
Chabot played 63 games with the Senators last season after failing to make the club out of training camp before finishing his rookie campaign with nine goals and 16 assists.
"Usually a defenceman gets into his prime around 23, 24," he said of being thrust into top-pair duty minutes following the Karlsson deal. "It’s earlier than we expected.
"I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity."
Chabot wore a Hydro Ottawa hard hat after the game in a salute to the workers that were quick to respond following the tornado that caused heavy damage and cut power to large swaths of the nation’s capital and neighbouring Gatineau, Que., last month.
It will be handed out to a player every time the Senators win this season.
"We talked about transitioning together this year, whether it’s on the ice or off ice," Boucher said. "When there’s adversity, we want to attack that adversity with being quick on it.
"That’s our theme."
Chabot finished with 21 minutes 31 seconds of ice time Saturday, while rookie defenceman Max Lajoie, who had a goal and assist in his NHL debut Thursday, clocked in at 21:56 against the high-octane Leafs.
"The younger guys did a great job," Boucher said. "And the older guys did a terrific job of anchoring them."
Dylan DeMelo and Chris Tierney, who were among the players acquired for Karlsson, also scored for Ottawa, while Craig Anderson stopped 34 shots. Mark Stone added an empty netter with 24.3 seconds left and Zack Smith chipped in with two assists.
Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly each had a goal and an assist for the Leafs (1-1-0) — Stanley Cup contenders that have had a wobbly start to the season.
Frederik Andersen was shaky in stopping 19 shots for Toronto, which visits the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
The Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime to open the NHL schedule Wednesday in a disjointed effort that saw the visitors carry the play for long stretches.
"If you’re going to be 1-1, probably should have won tonight and lost against Montreal," Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn’t capitalize around the net tonight like we probably could have."
Ottawa, meanwhile, opened with a 4-3 overtime defeat to Chicago at Canadian Tire Centre in a game where the Senators led 3-2 midway through the third on Thursday.
Toronto made an expected push late in regulation and pulled Andersen with three minutes to go, but couldn’t find an equalizer before Stone iced it.
"We really had them hemmed in there, couldn’t capitalize on chances," Matthews said. "Sometimes, just the little things make a big difference."
Ottawa led 1-0 after the first, but Toronto struck back twice early in the second to take a 2-1 lead. Rielly got things started 29 seconds in when he took a sweet feed from Marner before Matthews scored his third of the season at 1:10.
The Senators got back even at 3:49 when Chabot took advantage of some sloppy Leafs coverage to pick up his own rebound and score on a down-and-out Andersen.
Ottawa then stunned the crowd at Scotiabank Arena just 38 seconds after that when Tierney snuck behind Toronto’s defence and fired five-hole on Andersen for the Senators’ third goal on just nine shots.
"The second period was not a good period for the Anderson boys," Craig Anderson joked, playing off the similarity of the goalies’ last names.
The Senators held that 3-2 lead until Marner raced between Ottawa defencemen Cody Ceci and Mark Borowiecki on the power play and slid a shot home with 100 seconds left in the second period.
The Leafs got the better start they wanted Saturday after the Canadiens came hard at them in the opener, but it was the Senators that took the lead at 9:42 of the first.
Chabot’s pass from the left corner in the offensive zone went off Smith’s stick to DeMelo, who beat Andersen along the ice to snap a personal 87-game goal drought.
Marner had a chance to tie it with 5:47 left in the period on a penalty shot, but Anderson stared down the Toronto winger and made a right pad save — one of many key moments on a night that would end with cheers in the Senators locker-room.
"The attitude’s terrific," Boucher said. "We want to celebrate every win.
"I think last year we took that for granted."