Leafs blank Devils 3-0 in Giguere's debut
Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 5:15 AMTORONTO --
It took just one game for Jean-Sebastien Giguere to tie for the Toronto Maple Leafs
team lead in shutouts. Imagine what the veteran goaltender might do once he's feeling comfortable with his new team.
Giguere stopped all 30 shots he faced on Tuesday as the remodeled Leafs blanked the New Jersey Devils
3-0 in their first game since a pair of trades brought Giguere, defenseman Dion Phaneuf
and forward Fredrik Sjostrom to the Maple Leafs on Sunday.
"I was nervous tonight, to be honest, I didn't feel very good out there," Giguere said after becoming the first goalie to record a shutout in his Leafs debut since Ed Belfour in 2002. "The last two days were really tough, just a lot of things going on, a lot of people to talk to and stuff like that. I'm looking forward to the next couple of days her to kind of settle down and get ready for the next game."
Playing before an announced crowd of 19,326 at the Air Canada Centre, the energized Maple Leafs moved out of last place in the Eastern Conference by beating the Atlantic Division-leading Devils without much of a struggle.
With Martin Brodeur
getting the night off for the Devils, Giguere outdueled Devils backup Yann Danis while facing few tough chances. A Johnny Oduya shot that hit the post midway in the second period and lay dangerously in the crease before being rookie Christian Hanson smartly cleared it from harm's way marked the closest the Devils came to beating the former Conn Smythe winner.
"There's all kinds of shutouts," said Giguere. "I think a shutout is definitely a team thing and tonight you could feel that everybody was involved in the thing. I didn't have to anything crazy out there, but that's the way it should be."
After enduring what can be at best described as inconsistent goaltending from rookie Jonas Gustavsson
and particularly the departed Vesa Toskala, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson spoke of the calm brought by Giguere's presence.
"Everybody settles down or [they are] not bobbling pucks as much," said Wilson, who stopped by Giguere's locker to offer a post-game handshake. "There's still lots of things we need to work on to be better at but you know you can make mistakes, the goalie's going to help you out."
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said the Leafs was improved from the team that lost 5-4 in overtime at New Jersey last Friday.
"They're much better defensively, you can tell," Lemaire said after New Jersey was shut out for the fourth time in its last 12 games. "They've got great shooters on the point and you could see it tonight. They got some great shots."
Neither Phaneuf nor Giguere provided the first highlight for Toronto's new arrivals. That honor went to Sjostrom, the "other" player to come Toronto's way from Calgary in the Phaneuf deal.
The speedster, best known for his penalty-killing skills, helped put the Leafs up 1-0 just 4:40 into the game with a shot Danis could not control. New linemate Nikolai Kulemin
grabbed the rebound and put it into the net for his 11th goal of the season.
"I've got to credit [Kulemin] for that one, he made a great shot," Sjostrom said. "I felt great out there for being a first game, I wasn't really nervous. I was just really excited. It's just a great vibe, great atmosphere in this locker room."
Toronto went up 2-0 just 2:23 into the second on a pretty passing play that ended with Phil Kessel
's 18th goal of the season right after a highlight-reel save from Danis. Tyler Bozak
drew Danis out of position by holding onto the puck before threading a pass through the top of the crease to Alexei Ponikarovsky streaking down left wing.
Denis slid across the crease and stacked his pads to deny Ponikarovsky, but two Devils defenders went with him -- leaving Kessel as wide open as New Jersey's vacated net to snap the puck home.
With Devils defenseman Mike Mottau off for interference, Francois Beauchemin's slap shot from the point beat a screened Danis at 14:09 for his fifth goal of the season and a 3-0 lead.
Before the game Phaneuf had said he was not looking to make a big first impression, but it sure seemed that way rugged blueliner nailed Travis Zajac
in the opening minutes of the game and got into his first fight as a Maple Leaf on his fourth shift.
After attempting to line up New Jersey forward Zach Parise
for a big hit, Phaneuf got into it with Devils defenseman Colin White when he came to his teammate's aid.
"I made the hit and then he came over and he's sticking up for his teammate, that's part of the game. I wasn't going to say no," said a clearly pleased Phaneuf. "It was a great honor to put this jersey on tonight and be a part of this organization. The fans were unbelievable, too.
"It was a very special game in my career."
Lemaire wants to see a better effort when the Leafs visit the Prudential Center again on Friday night.
"We don't play as a group -- it's all individual effort," Lemaire said. "Little passes that should be there that are not there. Seeing a guy at the side of the net. Getting in front of the net, in front of the goalie so that a guy can get a clear shot. Little things that bring you goals, but you have to sacrifice to get them."
Jeremy Sandler covers sports for the National Post newspaper in Toronto