Jean-Sébastien Giguère was not the star of his first game against the Anaheim Ducks, the team that traded him almost a year ago, but revenge was still sweet thanks to his teammates.
The Toronto Maple Leafs shook off not only a tremendous thumping the previous evening but also a slow start to roll to a 5-2 win over the Ducks on Thursday night. Giguère was solid rather than spectacular in stopping 22 shots but it was enough to beat the man who took his job, Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, who faced 37 shots.
"I was a little nervous," said Giguère, who for some reason was picked as the game's first star. "I just wanted to have a strong game. It was a fun challenge."
Linemates Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski were the real stars of the show. MacArthur finished with a goal and two assists while Grabovski scored twice in the third period to finish off the Ducks. Also standing out was defenceman Dion Phaneuf, who led a strong physical effort by the Leafs.
"That was [Phaneuf's]best game in a month," Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said. "When he's skating and hitting like that he's tough to play against."
The Maple Leafs looked every bit the team coming off a 7-0 loss on Wednesday when the game started. They spent the first 10 minutes of the first period standing around watching the Ducks play with the puck.
By the time Dan Sexton scored to put the Ducks ahead 1-0 eight minutes into the game, it seemed the Leafs had barely touched the puck.
However, the Leafs found their legs late in the first period. They tied the score on MacArthur's goal, his 15th of the season.
"The first 10 minutes were really hard to get our nerves under control," Wilson said. "Once we tied it up we settled down."
The Leafs kept it up in the second period, although for a long time it looked like they would have little to show for their efforts.
Maxim Lapierre gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead. Unlike Wednesday night, though, when the Leafs collapsed against the New York Rangers in the face of a little adversity, they kept skating, especially MacArthur.
He wheeled around the Ducks zone to set up defenceman Carl Gunnarsson's third goal of the season at 13:10. Three minutes later, the Leafs took the lead when Tyler Bozak atoned for his mistake to score on a long slap shot after a nice feed from Phaneuf, who was guilty of his own miscue on the Ducks' first goal.
"We got some traffic in front of Hiller," Giguère said. "It sounds simple but it's not easy."
Bozak had the puck at the end boards in the Ducks zone early in the second period. That followed a good Leafs flurry but Bozak was in too much of a hurry to keep things going. He spun around and sent a blind pass up to the blueline, which went right to Ducks forward Joffrey Lupul, who started the 2-on-1 rush for Lapierre's goal.
"That was a tough one," Bozak said. "It was nice to see we didn't give up after that."
Bozak came back with some strong penalty killing and scored what stood up as the winning goal later in the period. He finished with a goal and an assist
Wilson may have discovered a new penalty-killing tandem. With forwards Mike Brown and Fredrik Sjostrom out with injuries, Bozak and Colby Armstrong played together. They were quite a force, aggressively keeping the Ducks in their own zone and creating a few scoring chances, especially on two consecutive power plays for the Ducks early in the second period.
"Those two kills at the beginning of the second period gave us momentum," Giguère said.
Leafs enforcer Colton Orr was literally knocked out of the game early in the first period. He unwisely took on Ducks tough guy George Parros in a fight and went down like a penny stock. Orr immediately went to the dressing room and did not return.
"He hit his face on the ice and was a little woozy," Wilson said. "Now, as soon as that happens, a red flag goes up."