Stalberg, Gustavsson heroes as Leafs win again

Viktor Stalberg’s fifth goal of the preseason was the game winner as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre. 

Coming off his two goal, three point performance in the Maple Leafs’ 5-4 victory in the first of the home-and-home series with the Wings on Friday, Stalberg’s power-play marker at 6:44 of the third period gave Toronto (6-2) its first regulation victory in the preseason.

 The former University of Vermont winger now leads the league in pre-season goal-scoring and is also among the overall leaders in points with seven.

Rookie goaltender Jonas Gustavsson shut out the Wings over the final two periods, making 15 saves after taking over from starter Vesa Toskala.

Leafs rookie defencemen Carl Gunnarsson also scored, while defenceman Brad Stuart had the lone goal for the Wings (2-4-1).

With the score 2-1 late in the third and Wings forwards Jan Mursak and Johan Ryno charging in, Gustavsson went from one side to the other, stopping Ryno’s up close wrist shot with 6:25 remaining to preserve the victory.

Leafs head coach Ron Wilson wasn’t too surprised by the game-saving stop.

“I thought it was a pretty good save but I’ve seen it before at the World Championships,” said Wilson, who coached Team USA last spring.

“We had a tight game [then] and managed to get five pucks by him and he made seven or eight saves like that.

“That’s why we and particularly Brian [Burke, Leafs general manager] pursued him so hard. We thought he was the best goalie not playing in the NHL.

“He’s had three periods and he’s looked pretty good, but we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves either.”

While Wings bench boss Mike Babcock elected to sit Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom,  Wilson put together a lineup featuring many of the regulars who will comprise the team’s opening night roster.

Forwards Jason Blake, Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky were in, as was most of the defence core in Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, Ian White and Garnet Exelby, who all dressed.

Detroit up first

The Red Wings opened the scoring with 32 seconds left in the first as Stuart’s slap shot trickled past Toskala to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at intermission.

A Ryno hooking penalty at 3:32 of the second put the Maple Leafs on the power play and Gunnarsson’s point shot beat Chris Osgood 27 seconds later to tie the game at 1-1.

Osgood got the start for the Red Wings and made 16 saves before being pulled for backup Jimmy Howard at the 9:14 mark of the middle period. 

Toskala gave way after the opening 20 minutes to Gustavsson who was given a loud ovation by the crowd of 18,825 when he was announced.

After stopping all seven shots in his debut in Friday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Red Wings, Gustavsson continued to endear himself to the Leafs faithful as he stopped all six shots he faced in the second.

Notes: Ponikarosvky was on the recieving end of a Jason Williams high stick with 6:39 remaining in the second and had to be taken to the dressing room, but returned for the third period…. It was Norris Division night at the Air Canada Centre as Bob Probert and Wendel Clark dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game … The two teams will meet in the regular season on Nov. 7 when the Leafs host the Wings. The all-time series between the two teams is tied at 274-274-93 …