A night after the Leafs were left looking rather ordinary following a loss at home to Ottawa to kick off the new NHL season, they responded with a 6-0 blowout of the Senators in the rubber match Thursday night before a sellout crowd of 19,237 at Scotiabank Place.
“It’s nice to get it out of the way,” said Raycroft, who stopped 34 shots. “You don’t want to go 0-2 to start the season, then the sticks start tightening up.”
Chad Kilger and Darcy Tucker each scored a pair of goals as Toronto (1-1-0) scored early and often on Ottawa goaltender Martin Gerber.
Gerber struggled in his home debut and was pulled in favour of Ray Emery after allowing five goals on 24 shots through the first two periods.
At the other end, Raycroft responded from the opening-night defeat with the fourth shutout of his career and his first since Jan. 31, 2004, while with the Boston Bruins.
“I thought he played well (Wednesday),” Maurice said of Raycroft, who drew some criticism from the media after he allowed three goals on 35 shots in the Senators’ 4-1 win at Air Canada Centre. “And I thought this was a just result.”
Maurice defended his troops’ performance Wednesday, when Toronto needed a Mats Sundin penalty shot to manage its only goal.
On Thursday, his faith was rewarded when the Leafs responded with a big contribution from their special teams, which produced one goal while shorthanded and two more on the power play.
Alexei Ponikarovsky and Bates Battaglia had the other Leafs’ goals. Kyle Wellwood had a career-high four assists and Sundin added two.
“I didn’t think our performance was a whole lot different other than
confidence,” said Maurice, who earned his 269th career NHL victory. “A lot of things came easy to us – Wellwood’s passes – that weren’t there (Wednesday).”
Raycroft had enjoyed a less-than-memorable start to his Leafs career, but Thursday the tables were turned on Gerber, whom the Senators signed to a US$11-million, three-year contract in the off-season.
Gerber received a loud ovation during player introductions but by the second period received mock cheers from the crowd.
“We go in there and win and they pat themselves on the back it looked like,” Senators coach Bryan Murray said of his team. “We talked about being a team that wants to work and play hard and we didn’t do a very good job of that.”
Ottawa (1-1-0) went 0-for-5 on the power play; Toronto finished 2-for-5.
Pavel Kubina made his regular-season debut on Toronto’s blue-line after sitting out the first game because of a pre-season suspension.
The Leafs got the start they wanted when, with the Senators on the power play midway through the first period, Kilger crossed the Ottawa blue-line and fired a low shot that slipped under the left pad of Gerber.
“It was nice for us to get out and get a lead and see how we handle it,” Kilger said.
They increased the lead a little more than three minutes later when Tucker wired a shot over Gerber’s shoulder with Toronto enjoying the man advantage.
Gerber’s night got worse early in the second when he came out of his net to stop a Toronto shoot-in and left the puck for his defence to play. However, Leafs centre Alex Steen was the first player to the puck and he fed Kilger for an easy tap-in before Gerber settled back into his crease.
Tucker, with another power-play goal, and Ponikarovsky, on a re-direction that caught Gerber moving the wrong way, scored before the period was over to make it 5-0.
Battaglia, who spent last season in the minors, beat Emery in the third for his first NHL goal since Jan. 29, 2004.
Emery stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced.
Notes: The Senators fell to 7-4-3 all-time in home openers. . . . Ottawa recalled defenceman Tomas Malec to take the place of Tom Preissing, who suffered a minor knee injury in the opener. . . . Rookie centre Alexei Kaigorodov was a healthy scratch for Ottawa for the second straight game. . . . Buffalo visits Scotiabank Place on Saturday. . . . Toronto managed to equal its win total in the season series last year, when the Leafs dropped seven of eight contests to the Senators. . . . Alexander Suglobov was scratched as Wade Belak switched back to forward to make room for Kubina. Defenceman Jay Harrison and goaltender Mikael Tellqvist also didn’t dress for Toronto. . . . The Leafs return home to play host to Montreal on Saturday.