TORONTO -- They chanted "Cujo, Cujo," and the Air Canada Centre was as loud as it has been in a long time.
In a meaningless season that never had a chance, we may have witnessed Toronto's seminal moment of the season Tuesday night, and all it took for Curtis Joseph was 5:57 of game action.
"The lack of sweat to get a win is probably a record for me," the 41-year-old veteran netminder said after an impromptu 3-2 shootout win over the high-flying Washington Capitals.
He spent the first 59 minutes of the game on the bench, where he's been most of the time this season, before starter Martin Gerber got himself kicked out for firing the puck at the on-ice officials following Washington's disputed goal that tied it at 2 with 57 seconds left in the third period.
A stunned Joseph was thrust into game action cold as a cucumber, but didn't look any worse for wear. His flashy pad save on Alex Ovechkin with 12 seconds to go in the third period forced overtime, and ignited the first waves of "Cujo" chants from the Leafs faithful.
Then came overtime, and an eight-shot barrage from the Caps, including huge saves on Ovechkin, Mike Green and Alexander Semin that again had the ACC rocking like it was a decade ago and Cujo was the man.
This place hasn't rocked for a long time thanks to a three-season playoff drought, so to hear it come alive for Joseph was something to behold Tuesday night. The fans kept their loudest cheers for the shootout, when Joseph stoned Nicklas Backstrom, Semin ... and, of course, Ovechkin to seal the win.
When P.A. announcer Andy Frost announced the game's first star, there was no doubt. The building shook.
"That was nice," said Joseph. "It's a great feeling. That was a great moment for me."
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy, quite frankly. Joseph is one of the classiest, most polite NHLers we've come across over the years. To see the crowd display its affection for him again on this night was, like Ron Burgundy would say, "Neat-o."
"Only town in the NHL where the backup goalie is the most popular player on the team," mused Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons.
That tells you how far this hockey team has to go to turn the corner. A 41-year-old goalie shouldn't be the fans' No. 1 choice. It's a hard-working team that's actually overachieving under coach Ron Wilson, but there's not a whole lot to choose from.
Another season will soon end for the Toronto Maple Leafs before the real hockey starts for the good teams. A night like Tuesday is what's left to cherish.