Leafs have ray of hope

Toronto Maple Leafs' Chad Kilger (left) and Michael Peca celebrate the first goal against the...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Chad Kilger (left) and Michael Peca celebrate the first goal against the Ottawa Senators during the first period on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006 at Scotiabank Place. (Ottawa Sun/Blair Gable)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

OTTAWA -- That wind you heard through the Ottawa Valley last night was the sound of last year's ghosts being exorcised by the Maple Leafs, followed by a huge sigh of relief from coach Paul Maurice.

After suffering five consecutive losses through the end of exhibition and Wednesday's season-opening loss to the Senators, the new-look Leafs chose a most unlikely locale for their first convincing victory.

After fighting the puck 24 hours earlier the Leafs ended up fighting over souvenir pucks in a 6-0 win at Scotiabank Place. Andrew Raycroft made 34 saves for the shutout, Pavel Kubina stabilized the defence in his first game and new first-line winger Kyle Wellwood had a career best four assists.

"We're going to cut the game puck in half (for his and Raycroft's first win in Toronto), then cut it into 20 pieces," Maurice said. "When I said (the Leafs played well in Wednesday's 4-1 loss), some people looked at me like I was growing a second head."

Toronto suddenly snapped to attention in a building where it was out-scored 25-10 in four trips last season. The Leafs scored on the power play, short-handed and, wait for it, added three even-strength goals, less than 24 hours after a 4-1 Sens win had filled fans with doubt and angst about the new season.

"It's a good sign, especially the way we were worked so hard in training camp," Raycroft said. "I thought it paid off tonight.

"Now we get to take a breath. Good teams don't lose back to back."

Chad Kilger and Darcy Tucker had two-goal games and Maurice left them on the same line during a late power play, hoping one would get a hat trick.

"Kilger's goal (short-handed at 11:03 after Toronto weathered early Ottawa power plays), had an important effect," Maurice said. "But Darcy's first goal ... I felt a weight lift off the whole bench."

Maurice has been counting on veterans such as Tucker and Mats Sundin to be the conduits for his new, high-tempo game plan and both played a huge role last night.

"I'm expected to do things out there, especially early in the game," Tucker said.

On Kilger's second goal, he took advantage of Alex Steen's hustle, the kind of jam that Maurice has wanted throughout training camp, as the Swede beat Wade Redden to a puck behind the net and banked it in off Kilger. Wellwood was modest about his big night, pointing out that they were all second assists. But he had some nice touch passes that opened up room.

The Leafs drove Wednesday nemesis Martin Gerber from the net after two periods, while a morning special-teams meeting chaired by Maurice had an effect. Toronto survived three first-period minors that might have provided the Sens the opening they needed to inflict more psychological damage.

"I don't know if after we won Wednesday we spent a lot of time patting ourselves on the back, but it looked that way," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said.

The Leafs are next in action tomorrow against the Montreal Canadiens.

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BLUE-LINE ICE TIME

- Number of minutes played by Leafs defencemen last night:

Defenceman Min.

Tomas Kaberle 22:17

Bryan McCabe 21:50

Hal Gill 20:31

Ian White 20:18

Pavel Kubina 19:55

Andy Wozniewski 15:21


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