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Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec celebrates a goal during second period NHL action against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

No one seems to know how it happened, but so it is.

The surprise feel-good story of the Toronto Maple Leafs season, 5-foot-8 speedster Brandon Kozun, the Californian kid who finally got into his first NHL game on Wednesday night, is carrying the mark of the curse on his back everywhere he goes.

Yes, he is wearing No. 67 – the year of the Leafs long ago last championship – and it isn't going away, despite protests from fans on sports radio and despite the fact only 14 players in league history have ever worn the weird digits before.

Perhaps bad luck can be good, in some twisted, Seinfeld-esque way?

"To be honest right now I'm not going to complain about anything," Kozun said of the number, sounding not unlike someone hoping no one noticed he slipped onto the roster.

But this was a spot that was deserved, and he showed why early in the opener. Playing with a belly full of nerves and with his mother, Donna, in from Calgary to watch in the expensive seats, Kozun whipped a puck at the Montreal Canadiens net early and watched linemate Nazem Kadri deflect it in.

Score one (assist) for Mr. 1967.

For a depth addition, Kozun represents a lot for the Leafs. More than anything, he is a sign of hope. Hope that this is a franchise that can dance in a different direction after spending so much time chasing a fruitless, punch-filled path and hope that everyone in a position of influence – especially the holdovers like coach Randy Carlyle and GM Dave Nonis – can adapt, evolve and find value where other teams see none.

A lot went right for the Leafs early Wednesday, and for at least 20 minutes, it looked like Game 1 of this odd new journey would be their night.

Kozun was on the scoresheet, sure, but so was fellow rookie Stuart Percy, a 21-year-old defenceman who no one had being here and yet was logging power play time, outplaying some of the vets and setting up a key early goal for a 2-1 lead.

Neither is a bruiser and, looking down Toronto's lineup, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that qualified as such. They looked, in fact, a little like the Habs, a team that has been derided for its lack of size with the moniker The Smurfs for years but that has been much more successful than their rival Leafs the last two seasons.

This time, they were evenly matched, especially early, with the Leafs claiming the first period by controlling play and the Habs roaring back in the second in outshooting the home side 2-to-1.

Then the game began to turn, with PK Subban scoring one dagger midway through the third as Toronto's top line was caught running around on a bad night for the trio and the top defence pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Stephane Robidas.

Later, after a brief Toronto comeback that was keyed by a Morgan Rielly goal that had the game headed for overtime, Habs vet Tomas Plekanec put a puck from a seemingly impossible angle off of Percy's skate with 43 seconds left in the game.

It went in, and it took all that hope with it.

Montreal 4, Toronto 3: A predictable end to an unpredictable, messy game.

"He can't be too hard on himself for that," Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier said of Percy, who had 20 minutes, 21 seconds of ice time in his NHL debut. "He played a great game."

"I thought Stu had a heckuva hockey game," Carlyle said. "Moved the puck effectively. He's very calm with the puck and the pace of the game was a lot quicker than what he saw in exhibition."

So Kozun was a positive, in spite of his freshman mistakes. Percy, too. The Leafs biggest disadvantage actually seemed to come when their big guns were on the ice, which could be the result of the fact both Tyler Bozak (who had one early goal) and Phil Kessel (who was relatively quiet) have been battling minor injuries.

Or the result of the Habs best players simply being better on this night, which was the case often enough for them last year.

For all the differences, there was a lot of sameness in Toronto. The Air Canada Centre crowd was so quiet Wednesday that a mouse fart would have resonated like the cannon in Columbus, a sure sign the regulars are back in the platinums after a more raucous group had come out for preseason.

And there were long stretches where the Leafs defensive play resembled the Leafs of (not-so) old, including on Montreal's third goal with 11 minutes to play that nearly did them in all on its own.

"We were continually turning it over, and Montreal took the game to us," Carlyle lamented afterward.

But there is room for optimism in both cities, too, as tends to be the case with the start of every NHL season.

Montreal is trying to improve on a 100-point season, and it's not at all improbable they'll do so given the changes GM Marc Bergevin made and how weak the Eastern Conference is.

Newcomer PA Parenteau, in particular, impressed in his first game as a Hab.

And while it's easy to be cynical when it comes to the Leafs, there's also tangible evidence that president Brendan Shanahan and his charges are attempting to turn over a new leaf – so to speak – even if doing so in the NHL can be unduly hard.

Kozun, if he keeps it up, can be a small start out of the abyss.

Even if Game 1 of 82 was a loss.

And even with No. 67 on his back, for all to see.

"I don't think you fully understand what it's like until you're actually in it," Kozun had said of becoming a Leaf before the game. "It's pretty insane."

Just you wait.