The Toronto Maple Leafs are expected by many to finish in the cellar of the league this season. With a roster peppered by rookies and hustle players, Toronto busted into Detroit and took the season opener 3-2 on Thursday night, spoiling the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony. >
Defenseman Pavel Kubina, Dominic Moore and rookie Nikolai Kulemin all scored for Toronto, while Tomas Holmstrom buried two for the Wings. Kubina opened the scoring in the first, corralling a Chris Osgood clearing attempt and chipping it in the back of the net. Moore scored his goal in the early stages of the second period, crashing the net and popping in a loose rebound. The Wings responded less than two minutes later, with Holmstrom screening the crease and tapping a rebound back through his legs and under the pads of Leafs tender Vesa Toskala. Rookie Nikolai Kulemin put the game away for the Leafs in the 3rd when he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and sprinted into the zone on a breakaway, ringing the puck off the crossbar and into the back of the net for his first career NHL goal. Toskala finished the game with 35 saves, including a number of saves in the final minute of the game against a potent Detroit powerplay.
Ron Wilson earned his first victory behind the Toronto bench, but was quick to note that it was only one win, and that there was a long way to go on the season. While many Toronto fans, myself included, probably felt a glimmer of hope watching their much-maligned Leafs knock off the Stanley Cup champs, Toronto will have to keep out-hustling teams all season long if they want to change anyone’s minds about the abilities of their club.