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Toronto Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting (58) celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of their NHL preseason hockey game in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press

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 defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in the opener on the NHL’s preseason 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 per cent of 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.

The NHL kicked off its exhibition schedule ahead of the full 82-game season on the heels of a 2020-21 campaign shortened to 56 contests because of the pandemic.