It was a banner night for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They scored four times Tuesday, their captain netted his first of the season, they won the game and not one waffle hit the ice.
In a Rexall Place that echoed loudly with the cheers of 'Go Leafs go,' Toronto opened its Western Canada road swing in Edmonton with a convincing 4-1 win over the Oilers. The showing was everything Toronto lacked the last time the two teams met on Dec. 2 and the Oilers skated to an easy 5-0 shellacking.
That loss was followed by others which led to an angry Leafs' fan tossing a waffle onto the ice at the Air Canada Centre last week. Against the Oilers, there was no such display of discontent. Instead, with the game tied at 1-1, Toronto ripped off a 13-shot, two-goal second period that sealed the outcome.
"We knew this was a big trip. We talked about that and how we wanted to start it on the right foot," said defenceman Dion Phaneuf. "We didn't like giving up as much as we did in the first period. Saying that, we responded well."
Phaneuf was a focal point on the night debuting in his hometown as captain of the Maple Leafs and he didn't take long to make an impact. From the Edmonton blueline, he slapped a shot past a screened Edmonton goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. The goal was Phaneuf's first of the year and came at the 5-minute, 55-second mark of the first period. Phil Kessel and Colby Armstrong drew the assists.
To that point, the Oilers had enjoyed the best scoring opportunities, including a pair by Taylor Hall, only to be stymied by Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The Toronto goalie expected the Oilers to come out fast and furious in hopes of another one-sided decision.
"I thought we didn't have the first period we wanted defensively. We didn't have our legs," said Giguere, who finished with 23 saves. "I knew the first 10 minutes would be crucial. When you have a long flight [the day before] guys have a hard time finding their legs."
Phaneuf had a hard time finding his in the first period. Edmonton's Jordan Eberle deked his way around Phaneuf and scored off a nifty give-and-go with centreman Sam Gagner to tie the game. Phaneuf then went to the Maple Leafs bench and then to the dressing room and didn't return for the balance of the period.
"I was looking at my skates. I thought it was a broken blade," he insisted, declaring himself good to go Thursday night in Calgary against his former Flames teammates.
"It'll be a special night," he added. "I played a lot of hockey there. I have a lot of respect for that organization. I have a lot of respect for the guys I played with."
The Leafs' other goals came from Mikhail Grabovski, Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel. Grabovski and Kessel both scored on the power play.
The Oilers were looking for some spice after being manhandled in their last home game, a 2-1 loss at home to the Vancouver Canucks. Steve McIntyre and Zack Stortini were added to the lineup and came in eager to throw their weight around. Stortini and the Leafs' Colton Orr eventually clashed with Orr sending his rival to the dressing room for repairs.
Edmonton coach Tom Renney said he liked how some of his players competed - particularly Hall, who had eight shots on goal - but was clearly disappointed by certain aspects of his team's performance.
"[The first period]was fun. Everyone was into it. We took ourselves of the game with penalties and a power play that looked like a minor-hockey power play," said Renney. "There was no co-ordination in bringing the puck up the ice. I didn't see our breakout once. … It was terrible."
The Leafs follow their game in Calgary with a Saturday night match-up in Vancouver.