This is what they were talking about.
All the players. Coach Ron Wilson. Brian Burke.
It was supposed to be, it had to be just as it was Thursday night: an evening’s work built on good goaltending, on role players, on Phil Kessel
, on a penalty kill that worked. It was supposed to be a good start.
By a score of 3-2 the Maple Leafs now have one more win than they gathered in their first nine games last season. More importantly, the script they have authored in meetings and practices is 60 minutes old and still unbeaten, at least against a tough Montreal team playing without Andrei Markov and Mike Cammalleri.
The first Leafs goal of the season was authored by Tim Brent, an afterthought acquisition in a summer spent waiting for a blockbuster Tomas Kaberle deal that never happened. Likewise the club’s third goal, a splendid bit of work by another low profile proposition, Clarke MacArthur
. Brent’s goal was just a deflection but it does not speak, as they like to say, of his body of work. Playing on a line with Fredrik Sjostrom and Colby Armstrong
, Brent seemed to have something say about everything that was going on the ice.
“The goal was unbelievable,” he said. “Everything a little boy in Cambridge pretending he was a Maple Leaf could ask for. There are so many people that have had a hand in my career and more importantly in my development as a person. I’m just happy I could share it with them."
MacArthur’s marker was a lovely piece of work in which he duped a Montreal defenceman before fooling Habs netminder Carey Price with a backhander.
“That was a great first game for us,” said MacArthur. “I quietly just wanted to go about my business and do my job. I want to be part of building something in this organization. It was a good step. We wanted to get that first one of our shoulders and we did.”
Kessel had the other goal, a wild dash down his side of the ice that left him alone on Price.
Dustin Boyd and Jeff Halpern scored for the Canadiens who played a terrific road game. It fell to Giguere to deliver two crucial saves on Brian Gionta in a wild scramble with five seconds left. A year ago in the Leafs’ home opener, the Habs scored a late goal and won in overtime.
“Now we can relax, not in our work ethic but just think about playing well or getting the win against the next team,” said Giguere, who inherited a moribund team when he arrived in January because of the Leafs inability to win their first eight games.
Wilson agreed that the night was won with the perfect script largely authored by Giguere.
“Looking at this game, this is one where they tie it last year,” said Wilson. “This time because of his great saves, we get the win.”
The Canadiens outshot Toronto 28-24. The Leafs’ penalty killers, Brent, Mike Brown
, Kris Versteeg, Sjostrom and Armstrong limited the Canadiens to two shots and no goals over three power plays.
Meanwhile, in one lingering bit of business, Leaf fans gave defenceman Tom Kaberle a rousing hand on his introduction.
For Kaberle, the subject of endless trade rumours, the acknowledgement meant a lot.
“It was huge. Obviously you have the best fans in the league. Being here for 12 years, it felt really good when they did that.”
“We’re so happy we won the game. It was a team in our division, a four-point game. Players look for two points and that’s what happened tonight. We started the season on the right foot.”
The Leafs escaped any injury but defenceman Dion Phaneuf
suffered a cut on the leg that required stitches. He returned immediately after treatment.