Giguere, Phaneuf solid

Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf handles the puck as New Jersey Devils' Zach Parise follows. ...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf handles the puck as New Jersey Devils' Zach Parise follows. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

They hit. They scored. And they won.

For good measure, the trio of new Maple Leafs were named the game's first three stars and, for one night anyway, you can call it a Brian Burke hat trick.

Two days after the general manager’s dramatic demolition of the roster, the Leafs looked like a different team in more than just bodies Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Where to start in a 3-0 win over a listless New Jersey Devils team that was rendered that way by the home team?

Goaltender J-S. Giguere wasn’t exactly in the shooting gallery that other Leafs goalies have been this season, but was sharp, steady and poised in earning his second shutout of the season. Hard to top that for debuts.

Dion Phaneuf, the most acclaimed of the new acquisitions made sure the usually sleepy mid-week crowd was into it early with a couple of the thundering hits for which he is reputed and feared.

“You bring two all-stars in (Giguere and Phaneuf) ... not to take anything away from the guys that were here, but we needed a change,” said fellow D-man Francois Beuchemin, whose power-play blast from the point gave the team a 3-0 lead. “When things don’t go well in hockey, that’s what happens.

“You could feel the change right away.”

Even winger Freddie Sjostrom joined in the fun, getting his first point as a Leaf when he assisted on Nikolai Kulemin’s opening goal and showed his smarts and hustle on the penalty kill throughout.

With four new faces — counting Christian Hanson, who was called up from the Marlies earlier in the day — the Leafs seemed determined to do something they have done all too rarely this season — set the tone from the start by winning battles for the puck.

Playing mostly alongside Francois Beauchemin, Phaneuf wasted little time making an impression. He dished out a couple of big checks in the opening period then did something he rarely did in his time in Calgary — got in a fight when an opponent took exception to one of his big body blows.

“I want to be known as a guy who leads on the ice,” said Phaneuf, who was vocal on the ice, on the bench and in the dressing room. “It’s a great start and I’m just looking forward to keeping it going here.”

While it might be a leap to suggest Phaneuf could change an entire team’s attitude in less than 24 hours, his feistiness seemed to rub off. The stud blueliner led all Leafs in shots on net (4), hits (6) and ice time (24 minutes, 21 seconds, three of the dimensions the former Flame was expected to bring here.

Defenceman Luke Schenn, for example, played the body more like he did in his rookie season.

“That was one of Luke’s better games,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “Luke has somebody he can watch and say ‘that’s how you do it.’”

And then there was Giguere, who stopped 29 shots for his 33rd career shutout and barely let out a rebound all night. Calm and collected, he was the first to admit he didn’t have to take many bullets, but showed how he too can be a leader.

“I came here in the last 48 hours and I really like what I see,” said Giguere, who became the first to record a shutout in his Leafs’ debut since Ed Belfour on Oct. 10, 2002. “Everyone is focussed and working hard.

“A shutout is definitely a team thing. You could feel everybody involved. I didn’t have to do anything crazy out there, but that’s the way it should be.”

Wilson isn’t about to go all crazy-and talk playoffs. But given the dramatic shift in tenor with his team, he wasn’t beyond enjoying a rare victory that snapped a six-game losing streak.

“It’s one night and it’s a good feeling for a change,” Wilson said. “It’s just a different feeling in the room, trust me.”

Looked pretty different on the ice as well.


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