It wasn't pretty hockey, but new coach Randy Carlyle wore a wide grin after the Toronto Maple Leafs delivered a victory in his first game behind the bench.
Mikhail Grabovsky scored twice in the third period and the Leafs defeated the listless-looking Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Saturday night.
Carlyle, who brought Anaheim to a Stanley Cup in 2007 but who was fired by the Ducks on Nov. 30, took over from Ron Wilson on Friday to try to shake the Leafs out of a slump and take a late-season run at a playoff spot.
"I was a little nervous, a little butterflies, but I didn't make too many mistakes, I thought," said Carlyle. "It's different when you haven't been behind a bench for three months and it's a new team, but we got through it. The assistants did a great job."
Matt Frattin, Grabovski's linemate with Clarke McArthur, also scored for Toronto (30-28-7), who ended a six-game winless streak and picked up only a second win in their last 12 games.
It was to add spark to a plummeting team that general manager Brian Burke axed his old friend and college hockey teammate Wilson to hire Carlyle.
The Leafs outshot injury-depleted Montreal 42-22 and got the win, even if the play was mostly scrambly on both sides.
"It's obviously a nice way to start," added Carlyle. "I thought our team put out an effort.
"It's impressive when you can go into the other team's building and hold them to under 25 shots and score two big goals in the third to eke out a win. I asked them to skate and not worry about anything but what our focus was, which was to the game. We stayed with our game plan. We played hard, we got some breaks and our key guys scored some goals."
'It's impressive when you can go into the other team's building and hold them to under 25 shots and score two big goals in the third to eke out a win.' —Leafs coach Randy Carlyle
His first game behind the bench came in a nationally televised encounter between the NHL's oldest rivals, with a large contingent of Toronto fans in the Bell Centre seats putting up competing chants with the Canadiens supporters.
Erik Cole scored for Montreal (25-31-10), whose playoff hopes are all but mathematically extinguished.
"It was one of those games that could have gone either way," said Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges. "Unfortunately, we made a mistake on their second goal [a poor line change].
"We left a defenceman [Yannick Weber] out to dry and the next thing, it's in the back of your net."
'Trying to get points'
Grabovski broke a 1-1 tie on the Leafs' 40th shot. Clarke McArthur slid a pass to the Belarusian centre, who used Alexei Emelin as a screen to beat Carey Price with a high shot from the slot at 11:45 of the third period.
He added another on a power play with 53 seconds left in the game.
"We still have a chance to make the playoffs, we're trying to get points," said Grabovski, who ended a 14-game goalless drought with his 19th and 20th of the season.
On having a new coach, Grabovski said: "I think they try to shake us up. I feel like all our team was just traded and we came to another team. I appreciated Ron Wilson. He gave me a chance to play in the NHL. It wasn't his fault. It was all the players. And now we're trying another way."
Carlyle had said when he took over that the Leafs seemed tense. The nerves showed as Montreal controlled early and got the first goal when David Desharnais fed Cole for a shot into an open side 7:16 in.
A lively fight between Mike Brown and Montreal newcomer Brad Staubitz seemed to cool off Montreal and the Leafs had several clear shots but couldn't beat Price. Brown went to the dressing room for repairs, came back in the second period, and then didn't come out for the third.
Carlyle said the winger had a stiff neck but should be ready for the next game Tuesday night at home against the Boston Bruins.
Toronto tied the game in the second period when the puck lay in the circle after a faceoff between Phil Kessel and Lars Eller and Frattin jumped on it to score on a quick shot.
After the game, Carlyle spoke to his new team in the dressing room. He said he does that after most games just to let the players know how he feels about the way they played and to lay out the schedule for the next day.
Carlyle tweaked the lineup, bringing Mike Komisarek back in and taking out Cody Franson. He also had Frattin and Niklai Kulemin, and Dave Steckel and Matthew Lombardi switch lines from the ones Wilson had at practice on Friday.