Toronto opened the scoring less than a minute into action to silence the Montreal crowd and the Maple Leafs never let up after that. Leo Komarov scored his first career goal just 59 seconds into the game, after a beautiful feed by Nikolai Kulemin.
Phil Kessel led the way offensively with his one goal and two assists as the sniper appears to be finding his comfort zone after scoring his first goal of the season. Speaking of first goals of the year, Dion Phaneuf finally found his on a powerplay goal that stretched the lead to six.
James Reimer found redemption after being concussed in Montreal a year ago that ended up plaguing his entire 2011-12 season. The goalie picked up his seventh career shutout, stopping all 37 shots he faced in a wonderful performance.
Toronto’s leading goal scoer, James van Riemsdyk, added to his point totals by picking up a goal and an assist. The forward now has seven goals on the season as he continues to find success by crashing the net and bothering the opposition’s goalie.
The real difference between this year’s Maple Leafs team and last year’s was the truculence showed by the roster after gaining a big lead. Last year’s team would have backed down and sat on their lead hoping to escape the night with an easy effort. That wasn’t the case with Randy Carlyle’s squad on this night, as Toronto was routinely challenged by the Canadiens and continuously put the Montreal players on their behinds.
Mark Fraser, Frazer McLaren, Colton Orr and Mike Kostka were challenged to fight by various Canadiens and all four displayed why this year, no liberties will be taken against Toronto’s skilled players. All four not only held their own in the fights, they clearly won all four battles against the Montreal players that would later regret making the challenge.
Two moments stand out the most proving how bigger and tougher these Maple Leafs are compared to last year. The first came when McLaren fought Josh Gorges, who is much smaller than and nowhere near as tough as McLaren. The Maple Leaf laughed in Gorges face, as the Canadien tried to punch him, only to receive a pair of fists to the face for his troubles.
The second moment came when a Montreal player grabbed Orr’s stick and threw it away from the player towards the end of the game. Poking the bear was a bad idea for Montreal, as Orr would take a run at Tomas Plekanec in attempt to get revenge. He’d narrowly miss hitting Plekanec, which was followed by Brian Gionta taking exception to the run attempt and trying to stick up for his player. Credit to Gionta for sticking up for his player, but the mismatch was similar to a smurf fighting a giant. After Orr threw Gionta to the ground, Rene Bourque came to his defense, only to receive Orr’s fist to the face as he immediately fell to the ground to join Gionta.
Both these incidents were something that never would have been seen from the Maple Leafs last season, as its crystal clear this team has a completely new identity.
Who would have thought firing Brian Burke would make Toronto more truculent.