October 19, 2010
Bitter taste of defeat for Versteeg
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
Kris Versteeg hadn't lost a real game since winning the Stanley Cup with Chicago last season, and the taste of defeat was much different than champagne.
But Leafs Nation did find out their new first-line winger truly hates to lose.
"It's crappy," Versteeg said after his goal was taken away on a controversial call, he was given a rough ride and took a retaliation penalty and, especially, after he lost control of an overtime breakaway on bad ice, all in the course of a 2-1 loss to the Islanders. "We controlled the game the whole way, it wasn't even close."
He didn't take the gracious way out either, when it was suggested that New York's 41-year-old fountain of youth, Dwayne Roloson, was just too much for his team.
"I don't care about how Dwayne Roloson plays. I care how we play," Versteeg snapped.
In the third period, Versteeg didn't mean to rip a hard dump-in pass off referee Don Van Massenhoven in the third period, but the Leafs and the zebras were crossing on the wrong paths all night.
Versteeg wiped out his own tying goal in the second period. With Roloson momentarily dazed by one of Dion Phaneuf's high, hard one from the point, Versteeg was trying to control the high rebound and made contact.
Later in the period, peeved that an Islander had bowled him over after the play and then sat on him, Versteeg hacked the stick out of his hands with predictable results.
WILSON LEFT WONDERING
Coach Ron Wilson, wary of getting fined for being too critical of a pair of rulings that went against his team, asked the media what their interpretation of Versteeg's high stick was. As the puck didn't go in the net, it wasn't subject to video review, only the officials' discretion. Versteeg is 5-foot-10, which would make any high stick infraction a tough one to call.
"Where is the high stick supposed to be? It wasn't shoulder height, it was above the crossbar," Wilson said. "We can obviously can go through it frame by frame, but I find it strange that a linesman behind the play made the call and you're not really sure if it is a high stick."
Wilson then shifted to the extra time goaltender interference call on Brett Lebda, probably the last thing the Leafs defenceman thought he would be involved in during his first game.
"In overtime, clearly I thought they weren't going to call anything and that was a marginal call after you see ( Nikolai Kulemin) hauled down in the neutral zone off a faceoff. What are you going to do at that point?
"But our guys never gave up. Roloson made a number of saves as he has often done in this building, so I can't complain about our performance at all. In some instances, we didn't have any puck luck."
That included Colby Armstrong's valiant attempt from behind the net that squeezed through Roloson and was swept out the other side by John Tavares. Video didn't reveal a goal, but the Leafs wanted a penalty shot called on Tavares in the crease.
Since scoring in each of his first four games as a Leaf, the first ever to do it, Clarke MacArthur has been trying to deal with his unexpected celebrity.
But there was no getting away from it last night when his line started both first and second periods and a special video was prepared to mark his feat. The dancing Country Boy in the golds even had a MacArthur No. 16 sweater instead of his usual 17 when the music started up.
Leaf goalie Jean Sebastien Giguere wasn't about to play the blame game with the officials. "The referees are there to make calls and I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. It's a tough game, a fast game. They're not idiots, they know what they're doing." ... As mentioned, it was Lebda's first game as a Leaf, almost 15 minutes of ice time in place of Carl Gunnarssson, and he didn't disappoint. In one of his first shifts, the veteran hustled to deflect a shot over the Leafs net ...The interesting part is how Lebda will mesh with Mike Komisarek, who is bound to be the next defenceman in the critics' spotlight. But Lebda had joked earlier that he was worried about being called a jinx if the Leafs win streak ended with his arrival ... By killing the Francois Beauchemin and Versteeg penalties, the Leafs are 17-for-19 ...The Isles came in with the best power play in the East ... It was the second straight game there was a third-period video dispute at the west end of the ACC after Tim Brent had a goal eventually ruled legal two Saturdays ago against Ottawa. This time the Leafs came out on the wrong end ... Forward Mikhail Grabovski may be injured after he went shoulder to shoulder with an Islander late in the game and had to be helped to the bench.