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Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares fights for the puck with Ottawa Senator's Jack Rodewald during the second period of a preseason game in Lucan, Ont., on Sept. 18, 2018.Geoff Robins/The Canadian Press

John Tavares talked after Tuesday’s morning skate about how he always gets butterflies before a game, no matter the time of year or the venue.

Those jitters were probably gone fairly early into the star centre’s preseason debut with his new team.

Tavares buried his first two goals with the Maple Leafs and added an assist as Toronto defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in the opener of the NHL exhibition schedule for both clubs.

Mitch Marner chipped in with a goal and two assists for the Leafs, while Andreas Borgman also scored. Ryan Dzingel replied for the Senators, who held a 35-30 edge in shots.

The game was played at the intimate Lucan Community Memorial Centre as part of the Kraft Hockeyville event in this town of 4,700 – a community some 25 kilometres outside of London, Ont., in the southwest corner of the province.

The Senators grabbed a 1-0 lead 21 seconds into Tuesday when Dzingel took a pass from Matt Duchene from behind the net after a Nazem Kadri turnover to beat Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney upstairs, but Marner fed the puck down low on the power play at 5 minutes 12 seconds to Tavares, who calmly beat Mike Condon past the blocker.

Borgman then gave Toronto a 2-1 lead on a 2-on-1 after the defenceman jumped into the rush and took a pass from Emerson Clark just 1:22 later.

After the teams played a scoreless middle period, Ottawa came on to start the third, but Tavares scored his second on a great effort in front.

With a tired Senators group stranded after an icing call, Tavares outmuscled Ottawa defenceman Patrick Sieloff for a loose puck in the crease after Justin Holl’s point shot squeaked through the pads of backup goalie Marcus Hogberg at 6:06.

Toronto then put things out of reach with 8:12 left when Tavares stole the puck in the neutral zone and rushed the other way before eventually finding Marner, who whipped a wicked wrist shot past Hogberg.

Tuesday marked the first game action in a Leafs sweater for Tavares, who signed with the team he grew up cheering for in the suburbs west of Toronto on July 1 after nine seasons with the New York Islanders.

The night was also the dawn of a new era for Ottawa, which suited up for the first time since last week’s trade that ended the protracted Erik Karlsson saga with the deal that sent the star defenceman to the San Jose Sharks for four young players and two draft picks.

The Senators made it clear by shipping their 28-year-old captain out of town that a full rebuild is underway in the nation’s capital.

Tavares, who turns 28 on Thursday, inked a seven-year, US$77-million contract on Canada Day, pushing a franchise that has not won a playoff series since 2004 in the league’s stratosphere as favourites among bookmakers to lift the Stanley Cup this spring.

Ottawa, meanwhile, has been dogged by off-ice controversy over the past 12 months.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk mused about moving the team on the eve of his own outdoor game in December – he has since backed off that threat – Karlsson’s wife accused the fiancée of former teammate Mike Hoffman of cyberbullying, and assistant general manager Randy Lee resigned amid harassment allegations.

Things had quieted down recently until the club released an in-house video that was widely panned of Melnyk being interviewed by defenceman Mark Borowiecki about the direction of the team two days before Karlsson was dealt to the Sharks.

Lucan won the right to host Kraft Hockeyville in a vote on social media last year, with 1,318 tickets for the game distributed across the region and through a lottery. The town also gets $250,000 for arena renovations.

Store fronts across Lucan welcomed both teams, but this is decidedly blue-and-white country.

One church’s sign read: “Love Thy Neighbour Even If They Are Not Leafs Fans.”

The game featured a number of NHLers on both sides, including Tavares, Kadri, Marner, McElhinney, Travis Dermott, Zach Hyman, Ron Hainsey, Connor Brown and Josh Leivo for Toronto.

Ottawa brought Dzingel, Duchene, Borowiecki, Condon, Bobby Ryan, Thomas Chabot, Mikkel Boedker, Tom Pyatt and Chris Wideman. Dylan DeMelo, one of the pieces that came over in the Karlsson trade, also suited up for the Senators.

Tavares, Kadri and Marner all played junior for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, as did Ottawa rookie Alex Formenton, making Tuesday a homecoming of sorts.

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