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Leafs finding their footing Add to ...

There are undoubtedly positives in the fact the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 last night, but that will do little to ease the worries over goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who left after the first with an elevated heart rate.

The 25-year-old Swedish goaltender, who had routine heart surgery earlier this season, did not return, spent the night in hospital and is to be re-evaluated today.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson said he didn't believe the problem was serious, just that the decision was made to sit Gustavsson as a precaution after he reported a racing heartbeat during a first-period penalty kill. His heart eventually slowed on its own, Wilson said.

"When the trainers came to tell me I got [backup]Joey [MacDonald]up and going. I'm not going to be responsible for a guy keeling over in a game. A game's just not that important," said Wilson, who joked that his heart was racing during the penalty kill as well.

Several of Gustavsson's teammates expressed concern. Defenceman Mike Komisarek said he saw the goalie in the training room between periods with towels around his neck.

"I think we're all a little concerned and worried," he said.

On the night Montreal's most illustrious brewing clan officially regained control of the Canadiens, their newest employees responded by unveiling a new product: Molson Flat.

And in a game that kicked off the team's centennial week, the grateful beneficiaries of the Habs' ineptitude were the Leafs, who skated to a comfortable 3-0 win.

With the victory Toronto pulled to within five points of the Canadiens, and after an abysmal start to the season seem to be finding their footing.

They have reaped points from six of their past seven games, and have been beaten in regulation only once in that span.

Phil Kessel led the charge for the Leafs with a pair of assists, and was a constant threat.

As one would expect from a Leafs-Habs encounter, the game had its heated moments, including a first period post-whistle scrum where former Hab Mike Komisarek flapped his arms at erstwhile teammate Maxim Lapierre in the universal symbol for "chicken." Afterward, Komisarek said "it's just hockey out there, it stays on the ice."

It was only second time the Leafs have won back-to-back games this season.

For only the fifth time in 27 games the Leafs opened the scoring, when noted Habs-killer Tomas Kaberle swooped in on the right 9:24 into the first period and bounced a puck that ricocheted off Wayne Primeau and Price, landing on Colton Orr's stick blade.

The rugged forward snapped it into the net for his first of the season; the assist was Kaberle's 47th career point in 56 games against Montreal.

Toronto doubled its lead just over three minutes later when a Kyle Chipchura neutral-zone giveaway allowed Kessel to chip a pass to the onrushing Jeff Finger, who slapped it past Price from the side boards.

The goal seemed to take the stuffing out of the Canadiens, who were held to just one shot over the rest of the period.

It was quite a turnaround for a team that came out firing at Gustavsson, who made two key saves on the same sequence, first on Mike Cammalleri then on Glen Metropolit.

MacDonald replaced Gustavsson for the beginning of the second and made several key saves to preserve the shutout, most notably on Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez, who returned from a four-game injury absence.

The Leafs stretched their lead to 3-0 in the second period after Kessel spotted Matt Stajan and threw a breakaway pass that caromed off Roman Hamrlik at the red line. Stajan then corralled it with his shin pad and fired a wrist shot into the top corner for his eighth of the year.

Boos rained down at the end of the second, and at points in the third as the Habs were shut out for the third time in their past 10.

All in all, it was not a great way for the Canadiens to make a positive impression on their new paymasters.

At a news conference before the game, new principal partner Geoffrey Molson said the team's financial future can only be assured on the ice, and that he is confident his family and its partners have made a good investment.

"The profitability of this team is tied to the success of this team, so we will do everything we can to win. And we feel we have the right people in the right places to win," he said.

The 38-year-old Molson will be the chairman of the Canadiens' board and CEO of the new partnership, which includes the National Bank, FTQ Fonds de solidarité, Hamilton Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer, former Montreal Stock Exchange head Luc Bertrand, as well as telecom giant BCE and The Woodbridge Company - who together control CTVglobemedia, The Globe and Mail's parent company.

The specific breakdown of the ownership stakes was not revealed, it's estimated the total purchase price topped $575-million.

SCORE SHEET

NOTES Maple Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle has been the subject of trade rumours to a pile of different cities, but if the numbers are any indication, the Leafs should consider seeing what they can extract from the Montreal Canadiens should they decide to move him. Heading into last night, Kaberle had 46 points in 55 career games against the Habs. ... Last night's game kicked off Toronto's 16-game stretch in the month of December, with half at home, half on the road. ... As the puck dropped last night, the Leafs owned the eighth-best power play in the NHL, but had scored only three times on the man advantage in their previous six games.

NEXT Against the Blue Jackets in Columbus tomorrow.

TV 7 p.m., Leafs TV

Sean Gordon

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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