Gustavsson records first NHL shutout

Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson makes a glove save against the Buffalo Sabres. (REUTERS/Gary...

Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson makes a glove save against the Buffalo Sabres. (REUTERS/Gary Wiepert)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

The Maple Leafs might pay for the Tuukka Rask trade for years to come, but whenever Jonas Gustavsson can blank Boston, the pain will be eased considerably.

Gustavsson won the 2-0 duel of Scandinavian stoppers last night at the Air Canada Centre, jolting the Leafs and their playoff fortunes back to life after Vesa Toskala came unglued in goal the previous two losses.

Gustavsson, who began working on a shutout in his last start Dec. 1 in Montreal when his heart acted up, was making his first start since then and picked up his first legit NHL bagel -- and it came against a tough Northeast Division rival that embarrassed Toronto 12-4 in total in two games in Boston earlier this month.

"Obviously, he has some character," coach Ron Wilson praised, "having had the two ablations (surgery to restore a normal heart beat), plus a groin injury. He's worked hard and he hasn't let his medical setbacks bother him."

Gustavsson was beaming after teammate Lee Stempniak retrieved the souvenir puck from a fan after it had been flipped into the stands at the final horn.

"It's not like this happens every day," the 25-year-old free agent Gustavsson said of his 25-save performance. "I'm so happy to be back, to be home and getting my first shutout against the Bruins."

LONG TIME COMING

On that note it was Toronto's first home shutout in two years and the second Gustavsson was party to after Joey MacDonald finished up a 3-0 win for him in Montreal.

"We should split that puck," quipped Gustavsson.

After lopsided losses to Phoenix and Buffalo, this could be a December to remember for the Leafs as they climbed back to within four points of a playoff spot heading into Christmas.

With seven wins and five games to go, they have a shot at a club-best 10 wins for a December in the 2000s decade, and if they can somehow beat their nemesis Ryan Miller tomorrow when the Sabres visit, they can at least tie the best mark of eight December wins, post-lockout.

The winning goal last night was engineered by Jamal Mayers, who extended his points streak to three games, his Leafs' high. He won a second-period draw back to defenceman Mike Komisarek, who sent partner Tomas Kaberle down the left side.

Faking both defenceman Adam McQuaid (in his first NHL game) and Rask, Kaberle found the short side for his third of the year.

Jason Blake iced it in the third as the Leafs put 31 shots on Rask, just below their league-leading game average. Rask, whom former general manager John Ferguson traded for the departed Andrew Raycroft in 2006, had a tired team in front of him after the Bruins arrived in Toronto around 3 a.m. from a shootout loss in Chicago.

Toronto, which was shellacked in Buffalo the night before, also had a sloppy first. But the Leafs' 30th-place penalty killing unit survived three Boston chances after the Bruins had dominated the Leafs in that department while winning the past seven meetings.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who was instrumental in shutting down Phil Kessel and the Leafs the past two games, was himself called for two penalties.

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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