The visitors got a standing ovation for simply being there.
Then, the home team was booed loudly, mostly for its horrendous power play, before it came roaring back to tie it up on the man advantage.
It was that kind of wild night in Toronto, where two Canadian teams that have begun their seasons in very different ways put on a show in the first NHL meeting between the two cities in 15 years.
In the end, it fell to a shootout to settle things, and there Toronto Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul played the hero in netting the winner – capping a terrific, two-goal game for him and an unlikely comeback for his team in downing the Winnipeg Jets 4-3.
Along the way, Leafs sniper Phil Kessel continued to pad his league leading totals, scoring once and adding two assists to give him 12 points in Toronto's first five games.
"Those two guys are hot," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said afterwards. "[Kessel] has always been a streaky player and he's on a good one. Only time will tell if he finds a way to be more consistent. But I don't see any holes in his game right now."
The Jets were first on the board in this one, however, when defenceman Tobias Enstrom put a point shot through bodies on the power play 10 minutes in.
Toronto tied it up less than two minutes later on an impressive individual effort by Kessel, who fed Lupul for a one-timer that shattered the net cam for his first of two goals on the night.
Then, Winnipeg went to work, carrying the play in the second period and taking a 3-1 lead on goals by Alex Burmistrov, 19, and 18-year-old rookie Mark Scheifele.
Burmistrov, in particular, made struggling Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn look like a pylon, finishing off a give-and-go with Nik Antropov in getting wide open for a tap in.
By the end of the second, with the Leafs trailing by two, the power play was drawing a chorus of boos – some of the first catcalls this season at the Air Canada Centre. (Strangely, they came after the jumbotron had played a "Welcome back Jets" message in the first period, pulling the Leafs faithful out of their seats to applaud Winnipeg's return to the league.)
Those boos kept coming to end the second, but that only seemed to spark Toronto's man advantage, which struck twice in 27 seconds with 12 minutes to play on power-play goals by Lupul and Kessel – seemingly the only Leafs players capable of hitting the back of the net these days.
That ended a stretch of 0-for-16 with the extra man for Toronto and sent what had looked like a Jets win to overtime.
"First goal was lucky," Wilson said. "But the second goal was a great play. That first one kind of loosened us up, [so we thought]our power play, we can score. Then the second one was a great play all around."
"Sometimes you need those power play goals to lift your team a little bit," Kessel said.
That set up a back-and-forth extra period – with several stops by Leafs netminder James Reimer late – that solved nothing, sending it to the shootout.
There, Lupul and rookie Matt Frattin had the only goals in the skills competition, as both beat Jets goalkeeper Ondrej Pavelec high glove side.
"I thought we did a lot of good things, our guys played to win," Jets coach Claude Noel said afterwards. "But it's in the details and you can't leave your opponent any openings."
With the win, the Leafs moved to 4-0-1 on the year as they head out on a difficult four-game road trip beginning Thursday in Boston. The Jets, meanwhile, fell to 1-3-1 but are now en route to Ottawa where its been guaranteed win night of late.
5,698: Days since the last matchup between the Maple Leafs and a Winnipeg NHL franchise, a game that ended in a 3-3 tie on March 13, 1996. A tie? How quaint.
11 of 16: Leafs goals scored by the line of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak, who have generated 69 per cent of the team’s scoring in the first five games. They’ve also put up almost 30 per cent of Toronto’s shots on goal this season – a sign of just how little support they’re getting from elsewhere.
It may be time to send out a search party for Mikhail Grabovski’s line.
The Leafs trio posted just one shot on goal in the first two periods, and while Wilson previously said he wants to remain patient with what was his best line last season, Frattin looked solid in place of Clarke MacArthur, who was hurt late in the game and played sparingly.
"We've got to find a way to get that line going a little bit," Wilson said. "When I flipped it up with Fratts out on the line, they seemed to have a bit more spunk, so we'll see for tomorrow night ... He's been playing really well."
In the frequently benched department, meanwhile, is Schenn, whose ice time hit a new low (less than 12 minutes) after he was burned badly on the Jets’ second goal. He appears to be wilting badly under the weight of his new $18-million (U.S.) deal and could soon see his first time in the press box in ages.
The big beneficiary of Schenn's struggles was rookie blueliner Jake Gardiner, as he logged more than 25 minutes in just his third NHL game and looked comfortable with the heavy load.
"I thought he played great tonight," Wilson said of Gardiner. "We gave him a lot more opportunities to show what he can do and he didn't let us down. He skated really well."
There was bad news for the Leafs on the injury front, however, as winger Colby Armstrong left with "a lower-body injury" during his first shift of the game and was later seen on crutches outside the dressing room.
He won’t travel on Toronto’s road trip that starts Thursday in Boston, which will likely mean youngster Nazem Kadri’s stay in the minors – where he was sent Wednesday afternoon – will be short-lived.
"He could end up coming on the trip with us," Wilson said. "We've got some injuries."
The injury continues a long string of bad luck for Armstrong in Toronto, as he battled all sorts of bizarre aliments – including a dislocated tendon in his hand and a blood spot in his eye – last season en route to playing only 50 games.
"He's a huge player," Wilson said. "Just look it up what our record is with him in the lineup. It's pretty darn good."Report Typo/Error