Maple Leafs Knock Off The Champs Print
Written by mark   
Thursday, 09 October 2008 19:27
NHL Headline News

Opening Night

The Toronto Maple Leafs sat stoically on their bench, watching the Detroit Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup banner to Joe Louis Arena's crowded rafters.

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Then, Toronto put a damper on the celebration.

Pavel Kubina, Dominic Moore and Nikolai Kulemin scored to lift the Maple Leafs to a 3-2 win Thursday night over Detroit in the opener for both teams.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson chose to have his players watch the pregame festivities, instead of keeping them in the dressing room and away from the hoopla.

``I have no problem applauding the Red Wings for what they've done because we'd like to get there ourselves,'' Wilson said.

Vesa Toskala made 35 saves - and stood strong against a power play in the final 30 seconds - to help Wilson win his regular-season debut behind Toronto's bench.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock was wary of how his players would play after a pregame ceremony that put an 11th Stanley Cup banner above the ice.

But Babcock refused to make it an excuse.

``I don't accept that as any reason for anything,'' Babcock said. ``The bottom line is, we found out what level the NHL is played at tonight. They were willing to compete harder and win more battles than we were.''

The Red Wings got off to a solid start, controlling the puck, but the Maple Leafs scored first to stunt their momentum.

Kubina rushed the net and was in the perfect place to score when goaltender Chris Osgood tried to clear the puck after it went toward him off teammate Niklas Kronwall's stick with 25 seconds left in the first period.

Moore scored on a goal-mouth scramble early in the second, then Tomas Holmstrom answered 1:24 later with his first of two goals.

Kulemin gave Toronto another two-goal cushion at 7:25 of the third period when he took advantage of Dan Cleary's giveaway by flipping a shot past Osgood.

``Wake up!'' Babcock shouted at his players during a third-period break.

Holmstrom scored on an assist from Marian Hossa in his Detroit debut, bringing the Red Wings within a goal and brining a sold-out crowd to its feet midway through the third.

Toskala, though, made enough saves in the final minutes to seal the victory.

``I'm sure there are a lot people with crayons writing down a parade route,'' Wilson joked.

The Maple Leafs, who haven't hoisted the Cup since 1967, hope their many changes in the offseason lead to their first playoff appearance since 2004.

They hope watching Detroit enjoy its latest title pushes them toward that goal.

``It's great to see the Stanley Cup out there and the crowd going crazy,'' Kubina said. ``I'm glad we did it and didn't sit in the locker room.''

Osgood turned away 26 shots for the Red Wings and he insisted they didn't have an emotional letdown after an elaborate ceremony.

``I wouldn't say it's a Stanley Cup hangover,'' Osgood said. ``Toronto has improved from last year.''

With an orchestra playing, Gordie Howe and other former Red Wings passed the white banner with red stitching to current standouts such as Nicklas Lidstrom.

``It's a special moment when you see those players coming out on the ice, especially the way they handed the banner over to us,'' Lidstrom said.

The Stanley Cup was on display, atop a puck-shaped pedestal, along with six other trophies Detroit won last season.

Red-clad fans cheered the loudest for vice president Steve Yzerman - who helped the Red Wings win three Cups - general manager Ken Holland, Babcock, Osgood and Lidstrom.

The Red Wings have won four Cups in 11 seasons and have advanced to the past 17 postseasons, the longest current streak in pro sports.

Detroit is on a quest to be the NHL's first to repeat it did it 1998, but quickly found out how difficult it will be to simply win during the regular season.

``We're going to see a lot of teams playing us like that, working real hard defensively,'' Lidstrom said. ``That's what we're going to see throughout the season.''

Notes: Babcock said Hossa fit in well on a line with Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk. ... Wilson, who was fired by the San Jose Sharks after last season, is the 20th different coach the Leafs have had, including interim ones, since they won their last Cup. ... Toronto evened the all-time series with Detroit 274-274-93. ... Toronto LW Ryan Hollweg served his first of an two-game suspension because he had a third boarding or checking from behind major in a 41-game span. The third penalty came in an exhibition game.

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