As early returns go, the Toronto Maple Leafs' stock surged like a 1990s dot-com outfit.
J.S. Giguère got a shutout, Dion Phaneuf cemented himself in the hearts of the fans in the first seven minutes with a big hit and a fight. He also got caught pinching; not that anybody minded. Even the throw-in on the Phaneuf trade, Fredrik Sjostrom, got a point.
As a group, the Maple Leafs looked disciplined, fast and efficient in breaking a six-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils.
But the question in dot-com terms is, will this encouraging start see the Leafs become the next Google or the next AOL? As far as Leafs head coach Ron Wilson is concerned, that is something that will be answered down the road.
"It's one night, that's all it is," he said. "If we win the next 23 games we'll make the playoffs. Are we going to do that? Probably not.
"It's one night. But it's a good feeling for a change."
Wilson said it was especially good after watching the Calgary Flames, the team that received four Leaf players for Phaneuf and Sjostrom, fall 3-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night in their first game after the trade.
"I watched the Calgary game and they were as flat as you can be," he said. "You can go either way [after a big trade] really high or like Calgary really low. I just wanted to be somewhere in between."
There were also encouraging signs from up and down the roster, as Phil Kessel scored and rookie Tyler Bozak had a good night playing as Kessel's centre. Even the offensively challenged Rickard Wallin spent a good part of the game in the Devils' zone, as he and Sjostrom set up Nikolai Kulemin's goal.
"Everybody contributed," said Giguère, who handled 30 shots to earn a shutout in his Leaf debut. "Everybody was playing physical. All together, it was a great night for everybody."
Giguère did admit he owed something to rookie centre Christian Hanson. When a Devils shot hit the post in the second period, the puck bounced into the open crease with Giguère out of position.
Hanson swooped in and fired the puck away before one of the Devils could reach it.
When the Leafs took a 3-0 lead in the second period, there was no sense that the 19,326 fans at the Air Canada Centre were waiting for another awful collapse like last Saturday's implosion in the face of the Vancouver Canucks. That's what happens when you have a capable goaltender.
With Giguère in the crease and directing traffic, the defence played with a lot more confidence, quickly clearing the few rebounds he allowed. The effect was shown in the penalty-killing unit, which blanked the Devils on two opportunities.
Leaf defenceman Francois Beauchemin, who won a Stanley Cup in 2007 with Giguère when both were with the Anaheim Ducks, agreed that the Leafs were a more relaxed group with Giguère in goal.
"Yeah, that happens when you have a guy whose had success before," he said. "Everybody knows he won an MVP and won a Stanley Cup. Everybody gets pumped up a bit."
Everybody in the building got pumped up a bit in the opening minutes when Phaneuf drove Devils forward Travis Zajac into the end boards and then followed it a few moments later by accepting Colin White's invitation to dance and dropped his gloves.
"I made the hit and [White]came over," Phaneuf said. "He's sticking up for his teammate. That's part of the game.
"I wasn't going to say no."
Phaneuf also lived up to Wilson's prediction that he would provide the cannon the team has long needed from the point on the power play. By the end of the game, he had four shots and six hits in 24 minutes, 21 seconds of ice time.
Almost every time he got the puck on the blue line, Phaneuf fired away, which was a welcome sight for fans used to seeing Tomas Kaberle doing all he can to avoid taking a shot. Beauchemin, though, was the Leaf defenceman who scored on a power play, putting a low shot from the point under Devils goaltender Yann Danis in the second period to put the Leafs ahead 3-0.
"It was a great start for my first game here," Phaneuf said. "Jiggy [Giguère] and Freddy [Sjostrom] they were real good also. Every guy was good, every guy battled here.
"It was a great honour to put this jersey on tonight and be part of this organization. It was a very special game in my career."Report Typo/Error