TORONTO - With youth often can come unpredictable situations.
But kids, thankfully, often forget the next day what might have kept them up the night before.
The Maple Leafs, the fifth-youngest team in the National Hockey League as of Wednesday, turned in a solid performance at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night, beating the Anaheim Ducks 5-2, less than 24 hours after they were humiliated by the New York Rangers in their worst loss of the 2010-11 season.
Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere didn’t have a lot to do in his first game against his former team since the trade nearly a year ago that sent him to Toronto from Anaheim for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake. Giguere, who said in the morning that he would think about waiving his no-trade clause, made 26 saves.
The Leafs put together a strong second period to carry a 3-2 lead into the third and Mikhail Grabovski put the victory on ice with a pair of goals in the final 20 minutes. Toronto, which plays host to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, stopped a three-game losing streak.
The Leafs have not had much to be happy about this season and are unlikely to make a run to a playoff spot. But the win could be seen as a small watershed moment, as the brutal loss in Manhattan would have been a convenient excuse for another lousy effort.
Didn’t happen, though. The Ducks were sloppy and the Leafs took advantage. Toronto’s speed was also was a factor.
Clarke MacArthur, Carl Gunnarsson and Tyler Bozak also scored for the Leafs, who outshot the Ducks 37-28 before a crowd of 19,399.
Dan Sexton and Maxim Lapierre scored for the Ducks Blake was a non-factor in his return to the ACC and barely was acknowledged by the fans.
Ducks enforcer George Parros tagged Leafs enforcer Colton Orr with a right during a fight at 2:15 of the first period, sending Orr to the ice. As with most scraps in the NHL involving guys who otherwise would not be in the league, it was staged, pointless and didn’t give anyone any momentum. Orr left the game and did not return.
The Leafs twice erased a one-goal Anaheim lead in the first 40 minutes.
Bozak, whose bad giveaway in the offensive zone led to the Ducks’ second goal, got some redemption when he gave the Leafs a lead at 16:15 of the second when his slapshot from the top of the circle to Hiller’s left eluded the Ducks goalie.
Patience by MacArthur, who was one of the Leafs’ top forwards in the game, led to the tying goal by Gunnarsson at 13:10. MacArthur, chased by Sheldon Brookbank but not bothered by the Ducks defenceman, ragged the puck behind the net and centred to Gunnarsson, who beat a screened Hiller.
The visitors took a 2-1 lead at 5:23 of the period not long after Bozak tried to make a pass in the Anaheim end. He certainly did, but it was on the tape of Anaheim’s Joffrey Lupul, and the Ducks went back up the ice. A shot by Brandon McMillan got through Giguere, but when Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf tried to swat it away, Lapierre swooped in and stuffed the puck into the empty net.
Sexton put the Ducks up 1-0 at 7:55 of the first period, beating Giguere from a bad angle moments after Tomas Kaberle’s one-handed clearing attempt failed miserably.
MacArthur then banged in Phil Kessel’s rebound, giving him 15 goals this season, two off his career high of 17, done two years ago when he was with the Buffalo Sabres.