The Toronto Maple Leafs hope a younger team leads to better results than last season. If their first game of 2008-09 is any indication, their revamped roster may just surprise some people.
Coming off an impressive performance in their season opener, the Maple Leafs look to beat another of the league's best teams Saturday night when they host the rival Montreal Canadiens.
A season-opening road game against defending champion Detroit figured to saddle Toronto with its first loss on Thursday, but the Maple Leafs got goals from three different players and a strong game from Vesa Toskala in a surprising 3-2 victory that gave new coach Ron Wilson a win in his debut.
"This is one of the more satisfying wins I've ever had," Wilson told the team's official Web site. "I've had some really great teams come into Detroit and you're hanging on for dear life and if you can win a game in a shootout, you consider yourself lucky."
One of only two Eastern Conference teams that haven't made the playoffs since the lockout in 2005, the Maple Leafs aren't expected to do much at all this season.
Gone from last year's team that finished last in the Northeast Division with 83 points are veterans Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft, Mats Sundin and Bryan McCabe. Replacing them are Nikolai Kulemin, Luke Schenn, Jonas Frogren and John Mitchell, who all made their NHL debuts Thursday.
Kulemin scored the winning goal in the third period and the 18-year-old Schenn, the fifth overall pick in this year's draft, didn't look out of place in more than 17 minutes of ice time.
"There's a lot of talk about us and how our team might not be very good this year," Mitchell said. "We came out and showed we're going to be a hard-working team. They're a really good team and we beat them."
Toskala finished with 35 saves and was at his best in the final 30 seconds as he helped Toronto kill off a Detroit power play. He figures to be back in net Saturday, looking to improve his 4-1-1 career record and 2.48 goals-against average against Montreal.
One area were the Leafs need improvement is at home, where they were 18-17-6 last season. They won only two of their final eight games (2-5-1) at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto hasn't opened a season with two straight wins since starting 3-0-0 in 1999-2000.
Montreal began its 100th season Friday at Buffalo with high expectations after finishing first in the East last year and adding forwards Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay in the offseason.
Carey Price provided excellent goaltending with 35 saves through regulation and overtime, but was beaten twice in the shootout as the Canadiens lost 2-1.
"Anniversary or not, every season you try to get off to a good start," Lang said. "Good starts come in handy around Christmas and at the end of the year. You never know when you'll need them."
Lang scored Montreal's lone goal while Tanguay was held without a shot on goal in just over 19 minutes of ice time.
Coach Guy Carbonneau could start Price on back-to-back nights or switch to Jaroslav Halak. Price is 4-1-0 with a 2.17 goals-against average in five career starts against the Leafs while Halak is 1-1 with a 2.88 GAA in two games.
The Canadiens went 4-3-1 against the Maple Leafs last season, going 2-1-1 at Toronto.