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Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel celebrates his first goal as a Maple Leaf while playing against the Detroit Red Wings during first period NHL action on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette (NATHAN DENETTE)
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel celebrates his first goal as a Maple Leaf while playing against the Detroit Red Wings during first period NHL action on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette (NATHAN DENETTE)

Leafs transform into giant slayers Add to ...

It was a night of firsts and a few seconds for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings was their first win at home of the NHL season, paired with Friday's 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes it is their first winning streak of the season and it came when they managed to score the first goal for just the second time this season.

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Come to think of it, they scored the first two goals of the game, another first.

By the end of the night, the Leafs could brag they beat last season's Stanley Cup finalist (the Red Wings) and last season's Eastern Conference finalist (the Hurricanes) in back-to-back games on the road and at home.

But that might be stretching things a bit. Both the Red Wings and the Hurricanes have fallen on hard times this season.

A loss of a few scoring forwards from last season, injuries and inconsistent goaltending have conspired to leave the Red Wings with a 7-5-3 record so far this season.

The Hurricanes have also been battling injuries and indifferent play that saw them carry a 10-game losing streak into the Leaf game.

To get back to that run of firsts:

Wayne Primeau started the Leafs off right at 10:34 of the first period when he scored his first goal of the season to give them a 1-0 lead.

Then Phil Kessel scored his first goal as a Leaf with 26 seconds to go in the first to send the team into the dressing room on a high, a rarity this season.

Too often, an indifferent first period saw the Leafs drag themselves into the intermission and then try to fight back in the third only to fall short.

Jeff Finger, starting in only his second game on the Leaf defence in the last eight, scored his first goal of the season early in the second period.

Kessel was brought in from the Boston Bruins this season because of his reputation as a goal-scorer.

He has taken all kinds of shots since he made his debut last week after recovering from shoulder surgery, but his first goal was not the stuff of highlight reels.

Wings goaltender Chris Osgood let a shot by Kessel's linemate, Jason Blake, dribble between his skates and into the crease.

Kessel whacked it into the net, and Blake could have made an argument it should have been his goal if Kessel left the puck alone.

"What can you say, it was just there," Kessel said. "When you get the chance, you've got to put those ones in."

The three goals gave the Leafs an unfamiliar but comfortable cushion to take into the third period. They needed it, as the Red Wings came back hard.

But rookie goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who made a couple of great saves on the Red Wing power play in the second period, solidified his growing standing in the eyes of the fans.

He closed the door on the Wings, although Daniel Cleary managed to beat him on a breakaway. Gustavsson finished the game with 35 saves and it marked his third successful run-in with the Wings. He played three periods against them over two back-to-back pre-season games and did not give up a goal.

"The way Gustavsson played was unbelievable," Kessel said. "I don't know what to say about him, doing that two games in a row."

Gustavsson, 25, said he was tickled merely to be playing in the Hockey Hall of Fame game against an original six team and in front of a large collection of Hall of Fame players.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "It was so much fun to be out there against a classic team.

"I think we played good as a team. This must be our best game so far. We played really good, the [defence]helped me a lot, the forwards scored some goals. It was perfect."

John Mitchell scored for the Leafs, deflecting a shot by Kessel, to put the Leafs ahead by three again and Alexei Ponikarovsky finished off the visitors with his sixth goal of the season.

The Red Wings' run of bad luck continued when winger Jason Williams was lost in the second period. He fell awkwardly on his right leg after chasing a puck to the end boards and suffered a broken tibia. He is expected to be lost for eight weeks.

The Leafs lost defenceman Mike Komisarek in the second period. He was hurt in the first period in a collision with Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi. Leafs head coach Ron Wilson would only say Komisarek has a lower-body injury and it is not serious.

Follow on Twitter: @dshoalts

 

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