Maple Leafs win in the new jersey, and against New Jersey

With Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwood on the roster, and black-and-blue sweaters worn for the first time in the 105-year history of the franchise, it was a new look for the Maple Leafs. It was also billed as a fresh start for beleaguered goalie Petr Mrázek.

So, all things considered, it was successful start to the final quarter of the season, with a short-handed goal by Pierre Engvall standing up as the winner in the Leafs’ 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, a tight, defensive , low-event game.

“This was one that could have gone either way,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Glad it worked out for us.”

Ilya Mikheyev also scored short-handed, and Mitch Marner scored his 27th of the season, a career high, as the Leafs moved one point ahead of Tampa Bay for second place in the Atlantic Division.

Mrázek, who went unclaimed after being placed on waivers Sunday, had his best game in some time. The idea for his teammates was to protect him as much as they could and for the most part they did, with Captain John Tavares among the many Leafs stopping shots that might have otherwise been goals.

“I thought (Mrázek) looked really good,” Keefe said. “I thought he looked calm, confident. Tough game. You only get a few shots in that first period. Not a lot of work and then all of a sudden in the second period, things turned and there was a lot more really good looks for them. But I thought he looked really good. That was a great step for him.”

It was the first time Mrazek had allowed fewer than three goals in a start since Feb. 24, a 2-1 win over Minnesota. I have faced 22 shots.

“Two points, that feels good, that’s what’s important,” said Mrazek. “I felt really comfortable. I felt I was in the game, focused on the things I could control, and that’s the result. It meant a lot after you lose a game and then you don’t play for a while to come back and get a chance to win.”

Gio in TO

Giordano, acquired from Seattle on Monday with Blackwell, received a huge ovation when his name was announced in the starting lineup. His parents Paul and Anna were in attendance.

Winger Ilya Mikheyev scored one of two short-handed goals in the Leafs' 3-2 win over New Jersey on Wednesday.

“When the coach does something like that for you, it’s well appreciated, obviously,” the Toronto-born Giordano said. “It was a nice reception, so I’m happy for that.

“I felt good every day. I felt excited. I remember coming here when I was a young guy and had all the nerves. I had some nerves today, but not really. I felt really excited and I loved the way we played.”

Keefe loved the way Giordano played, too. The 38-year-old former Norris Trophy winner played 18 minutes and 45 seconds, including 2:41 on the power play. He registered three hits and two blocked shots, looking comfortable in his new surroundings.

“You talk about his comfort level, my comfort level was high,” Keefe said. “When he was out there and the puck got on his stick from him, things seemed to settle down. You can just tell he’s a veteran who knows how to play. Despite coming into new teammates, new city, new system, he’s just confident in moving pucks, defending, getting in people’s way. So I really like his play from him.”

Blackwell played 8:41, mostly on the fourth line. He had some power play time (1:04), some penalty kill time (1:11) and registered two shots and four hits. He is the kind of player who will land in Keefe’s good books more times than not given the energy he brings every shift.

“I think he’s going to get better each time out,” Keefe said. “It’s going to take him a little while. He’s obviously not as established a player and he’s moved around quite a bit in his career, and he’s found a new home now. He’s going to continue to get better, but I did like pieces of his game from him.

new jersey

How fitting was it the Leafs wore their new jersey against New Jersey? The new sweater was reversible. It featured black and blue coloring with the familiar logo and was black and yellow on the inside with a stylized yellow leaf with a happy face, designed by Justin Bieber’s company Drew. Bieber was in the crowd.

It appeared to be a hit, not just with the next generation of fans that was the theme of the game but with the players, too.

“It’s a little different,” Tavares said. “They did a tremendous job giving it the old tradition that we know as the Maple Leafs but adding something new and exciting with the team of the next generation and trying to incorporate both.”

Marner, Engvall and Auston Matthews were named the game’s three stars, and emerged with the black-and-yellow reversed versions of the sweater.

“We were talking before the game about seeing if we’re going to swap the inside out for warm-ups, thought that would be pretty cool,” Marner said. “It was still cool to switch that jersey and go after the three stars and do that. The jersey is really cool.”

talking points

Engvall scored on a 2-on-1 short-handed to win the game. Mikheyev scored on a short-handed breakaway. The Leafs lead the league with 10 short-handed goals. “We have a lot of speed on the team, so I think that’s probably the biggest reason why we get so many chances on the penalty kill,” Engvall said … The Leafs are now a point up on Tampa Bay and two up on Boston. Those teams play each other Thursday … Rasmus Sandin’s knee injury is expected to keep him out for some time. “It’s going to be weeks for sure is what I’m told,” Keefe said. “How many, we are not certain of that.” … There was no word on when Ondrej Kaše or Jake Muzzin would return. Both were convicted. Muzzin is probably the closer of the two to returning.


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