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Mark Giordano of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates with the puck against a checking Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Arena on March 23.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

As traditional Toronto Maple Leafs debuts go, Wednesday was probably not exactly how Mark Giordano dreamed it. In place of the iconic, Conn Smythe-inspired blue-and-white jerseys, the former captain of the Calgary Flames and Seattle Kraken found a Justin Bieber-inspired black-and-blue alternate sweater residing in his stall.

And with his usual No. 5 hanging in the Scotiabank Arena rafters under the name Barilko, Giordano – who originally chose the number in tribute to Red Wings great Nicklas Lidstrom – had to contend with 55 instead.

Not that he was complaining, particularly after his new team registered two short-handed goals to make hard work of a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

“It’s a bit different than what I’m used to, obviously watching the Leafs, but cool jerseys,” said Giordano, who got a special reception from the fans after being inserted into the starting lineup. “It’s just a just a cool place to play. So I’m excited to be here and obviously excited that we got that win in my first one.”

The win allowed the Leafs to move past the idle Tampa Bay Lightning into second place in the Atlantic Division, at least until the two-time Stanley Cup defending champions play in Boston on Thursday.

“It wasn’t the perfect game by any means, but I thought we did a pretty good job throughout,” Giordano said.

As a 38-year-old Toronto native, Giordano has taken the long way round to suit up for his hometown team. Undrafted out of junior hockey, the defenceman was all set to go to York University back in 2004 before an invite to Calgary Flames training camp permanently altered his career trajectory.

John Tavares, another Toronto native who was waylaid in another NHL outpost before finding his way home, having famously grown up sleeping in Maple Leafs-themed bedsheets, paid tribute to the unusual route taken by his new teammate.

“[He] took really a non-traditional path to become you know, an elite player and Norris Trophy winner and just a high-end impact defenceman,” the Leafs captain said.

Much like head coach Sheldon Keefe – who praised the “options” he now has with the arrival of Giordano – Tavares welcomed the arrival of the accomplished blueliner. On the occasion of another Next Gen game – celebrating the next generation of Leafs fans – the newcomer should complement the likes of Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin – once he returns from his concussion – on a roster that can no longer look for outside help with Monday’s trade deadline now in the rear-view mirror.

Thankfully for a Leafs team that gave up six goals in its previous outing, against Nashville on Saturday, the Devils allowed Giordano to gently feel his way into his first game as a Bud, generating just three shots through the first 20 minutes. The home side responded with 11 of its own, but was unable to solve Nico Daws in the New Jersey net.

Keefe thought that slow start might actually have worked against his goaltender, particularly for someone who found himself on waivers earlier in the week, before going unclaimed.

“Tough game you know, you only get a few shots in that first period, not a lot of work and the couple of shots he got were tough saves,” the Leafs head coach said.

The impasse proved short-lived, however.

With 5:03 gone in the second period, the Devils, fresh off of Tuesday’s 7-4 upset of the New York Rangers, jumped in front. With Pierre Engvall in the box for tripping, Damon Severson inadvertently beat Petr Mrazek with New Jersey’s seventh shot of the game, the puck deflecting off Ilya Lyubushkin and through the embattled goaltender’s five-hole.

The home side knotted the score at the 12:30 mark with a short-handed effort from Ilya Mikheyev, the Russian winger taking a pass from Alex Kerfoot and racing past a half-hearted challenge from P.K. Subban to deke the puck past Daws.

Nico Hischier, who registered an assist on New Jersey’s first goal, restored the Devils’ lead with 6:04 to play in the second, netting a rebound for his 18th of the season to mark a fourth successive multipoint game.

But Mitch Marner got the Leafs back on terms with just over five minutes remaining in the period, as Auston Matthew and Michael Bunting combined to set up the winger for his 27th goal of the season, establishing a career high for No. 16. Matthews picked up his 80th point of the campaign on the play, tying his career high from the 2019-20 season.

Per NHL Stats, Matthews became just the eighth player to record multiple 80-point seasons with the Leafs, and the first since Phil Kessel recorded his second in 2013-14.

With both teams largely cancelling each other out throughout much of the third period, the game looked to have tilted in New Jersey’s direction when Mikheyev was called for a double minor for high sticking with 7:37 remaining. But after Marner spurned a chance early in the short-handed situation, Engvall broke through on a two-on-one with William Nylander, with the former opting to shoot instead of pass, giving the Leafs their first lead of the game with his 11th of the season 4:42 before the final buzzer.

Engall’s winning goal was the Leafs’ NHL-leading 10th short-handed goal on the year, a total that both Engvall and Keefe put down to the team’s speed, among other things.

“It’s the instincts of the players, the speed to close quickly and the skill level to make plays and finish plays,” Keefe said.

Giordano, who was paired with Timothy Liljegren for much of the night, had 18 minutes 35 seconds of ice time and provided a “calming presence back there,” according to Marner.

The veteran defenceman was impressed with his fellow blueliner, and thought the two showed early signs of some positive chemistry.

“I was really impressed with his positioning and all the little plays he made,” Giordano said. “So hopefully, we build if we stay together we keep building and go from there.”

Meanwhile Colin Blackwell, who also came over from Seattle in Sunday’s trade, wore No. 11 and played 8:21 on the fourth line.

Mrazek, playing his first game since giving up four goals in the loss against Buffalo at the Heritage Classic, stopped 20 of 22 shots, while Daws made 28 saves for New Jersey.

The Leafs now turn their attention to Saturday’s game in Montreal against the Canadiens, before a showdown with the first-place Florida Panthers on Sunday.