Kulemin stars in debut as Maple Leafs edge Red Wings

DETROIT (Ticker) — Nikolai Kulemin’s NHL debut could not have
gone any better.

Kulemin scored what proved to be the game-winning goal and Vesa
Toskala made 35 saves as the Toronto Maple Leafs opened the
season with a 3-2 triumph over the reigning Stanley Cup champion
Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Defenseman Pavel Kubina and Dominic Moore also tallied for the
Maple Leafs, who made Ron Wilson’s coaching debut with the team
a successful one.

“We paid attention to detail, we paid attention to the task at
hand,” said Wilson, who improved to 5-8-1 in season openers.
“They’re having a good time, and they should. They beat the
Stanley Cup champions.”

A second-round pick in 2006, the 22-year-old Kulemin gave
Toronto a 3-1 lead at 7:25 of the third period, when he
intercepted a neutral-zone pass by Daniel Cleary and beat
goaltender Chris Osgood to the stick side on a breakaway. The
Russian spent last season in his homeland with Metallurg

“It was real exciting to score in my first NHL game,” Kulemin
said through an interpreter. “And then to have it end up the
game-winner. I think somebody got the puck for me and they’re
going to frame it.”

“We coughed up a little bit too many pucks,” Detroit’s Tomas
Holmstrom said. “We had way too many turnovers, and they got
lots of offense from that.”

Holmstrom netted both goals for the Red Wings, who fell to
43-30-9 in home openers.

“We didn’t play as hard as we needed to play,” Red Wings coach
Mike Babcock said. “We’ll have to get it fixed or else you get
a pretty disappointing group. Obviously, we were set up to have
a real nice night here in Detroit. The evening started very
well. We didn’t do our part to finish it well.”

After Red Wings legends Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Steve
Yzerman – among others – participated in the raising of the
team’s championship banner during a pregame ceremony, Detroit
applied pressure on Toskala, who was forced to make 14 saves in
the first period.

But the Maple Leafs were the ones who got on the board in the
opening session thanks to a miscue by Osgood.

Attempting to sweep the puck out of harm’s way as it sat to his
right, Osgood gave it right to Kubina, who buried it from the
doorstep during a power play with 26 seconds to go for a 1-0

“We need to not turn the puck over as much as we did tonight,”
Osgood said. “That’s probably the biggest thing we did.”

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Toronto, which improved to 34-41-16 in season openers, doubled
the advantage with less than five minutes remaining in the
second period. After rookie blue-liner Jonas Frogren’s shot
from the right point was deflected by a defender, Moore
corralled the loose puck and fired it in from the right side of
the net at 15:04.

“There was a point shot that came through,” Moore said.
“Steener (Alex Steen) had a couple whacks at it, I had a couple
whacks at it. Finally, it came loose and I was able to get it
up and over (Osgood). I was pretty excited. It was a big

The Red Wings answered 84 seconds later to halve the deficit.
Stationed in his usual spot, Holmstrom grabbed the puck after
defenseman Brad Stuart’s blast from the blue line failed to make
it to the net and backhanded it under Toskala’s pads from the
doorstep with 3:32 left in the middle session.

Holmstrom, who scored 11 of his 20 goals last season on the
power play, netted his first of this campaign with the man
advantage to draw Detroit within 3-2. Again standing in front,
the 35-year-old Swede picked up a loose puck and wrapped it
around Toskala’s outstretched right leg at 9:20 of the third for
his second tally.

“They have one of the best players in the league in front of the
net in Holmstrom,” Toskala said. “He makes it really tough for
the goalie to see the puck.”

Toskala was impenetrable thereafter, turning aside the last six
shots he faced. His biggest stop came with three minutes to go,
denying Mikael Samuelsson from the left side with his left pad.

“We blew a lot of games last season and in the preseason in the
last 10 minutes, so I think this is a big confidence boost for
us,” Toskala said.

Osgood made 26 saves and Marian Hossa notched an assist in his
debut with the Red Wings, who posted a 29-9-3 record at home
last season.

“I thought our goalie was good,” Babcock said. “The game could
have been, I thought, more one-sided than it was.”

“It was a hard-fought game. It’s the way it’s going to be all
year,” Osgood said. “It shouldn’t be a shock or a surprise to
anybody that Toronto played well tonight. Every time somebody
comes in here, they play good. We know that. It’s not a
surprise for us.”

Steen set up a goal for Toronto, which raised its record to
4-1-2 when beginning the season in Detroit.