TORONTO – Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 26 saves, and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the short-handed Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Thursday night in the regular-season opener for both teams.
Goaltending was a key reason Leafs coach Ron Wilson felt good heading into the year, and Giguere justified that optimism. He kicked away Andrei Kostitsyn's great chance early and wisely poke-checked the puck off Lars Eller's stick in the third period with his team clinging to a one-goal lead.
Giguere also weathered a late storm as the Canadiens pushed for the tying goal, sticking out his left pad to deny Montreal captain Brian Gionta twice from in close.
Tim Brent, Phil Kessel, Clarke MacArthur scored for the Maple Leafs, who won their first home opener since October 2000.
Dustin Boyd and Jeff Halpern each had a goal in their first game with Montreal.
It was a typically tight game between the longtime rivals, who needed overtime to decide five of six meetings last season. That included the opener, in which Montreal tied it late before pulling out a 4-3 win in extra time.
Only six Leafs players who played in that game were on the ice for this one — a sign of the massive overhaul general manager Brian Burke constructed over the last year.
MacArthur, one of the new faces, scored the eventual winner. He made a nice play to beat defenseman Jaroslav Spacek before putting a nice backhander behind Carey Price at 1:36 of the third period.
Halpern scored less than a minute later to make it 3-2, but that was as close as Montreal would get.
Toronto took advantage of a Canadiens team that was missing key personnel. Winger Mike Cammalleri sat out a one-game suspension, and defensemen Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik were sidelined by knee injuries.
Eller replaced Cammalleri on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, and did an admirable job in his eighth NHL game. He had a scoring chance from his knees in the second period but Giguere got his pad on it.
The fans at Air Canada Centre had the opportunity to get on Price early.
Brent opened the scoring with the second goal of his NHL career at 6:42, redirecting a point shot from Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf high over Price. Kessel made it 2-0 a little over two minutes later when he was sent in alone by linemate Tyler Bozak and managed to slide the puck under the goalie.
But Montreal struck back quickly.
Boyd, acquired in an offseason trade, picked off a pass from defenseman Carl Gunnarsson behind the net and quickly wheeled out in front. He knocked a rebound past Giguere at 12:19.
NOTES: Leafs D Brett Lebda (shoulder) and Jeff Finger (knee) sat out. Forward John Mitchell was a healthy scratch. ... Price sported a new mask with a bucking bronco on each side over the top of the team's logo. His last name was printed along the bottom.