Leafs pull another one out of the fire

Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson makes a stick save on New York's Steve Avery Saturday, March...

Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson makes a stick save on New York's Steve Avery Saturday, March 27, 2010 in Toronto. (Jack Boland/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET

He met Hall of Famer Borje Salming in the morning, then beat Henrik Lundqvist in overtime.

Don’t be shocked if Jonas Gustavsson completed the Swedish hat trick and jammed with ABBA on stage somewhere after the 3-2 win over the New York Rangers.

The Monster sure looked the part of a long-limbed lizard on Saturday, keeping the Maple Leafs in the match after the visitors beat him twice, leading to their ninth win in 12 starts and first of the season when trailing after two periods (1-30-7).

Gustavsson stopped 36 shots for his seventh straight win, one more than Damian Rhodes accomplished consecutively as a Leafs rookie almost 20 years ago.

“I was thinking about (Lundqvist) before the game, the first time I’d ever played a Swede in this league,” Gustavsson said of his national team senior. “It’s a big thing for me. (Back home) it’s the middle of the night, maybe some people were watching. It was a chance to make up for the first goal (P.A. Parenteau’s) when I couldn’t get my pad down.”

Gustavsson is the first Leafs goalie to have seven game winning streak since Ed Belfour in 2003.

After Brandon Dubinsky’s wraparound goal, just when it seemed the Leafs had kicked the habit on late-period breakdowns, Gustavsson stretched out his 6-foot-3 frame to maximum effect on a couple of side-door scrambles, as well as two breakaways.

“I don’t think (goalie coach Francois) Allaire wants me stretching out like that,” laughed Gustavsson, who has overcome groin injuries this year, “but sometimes you have to do those things. Everything goes so fast. If you get injured, you think about it afterwards. But I’m happy with my long legs.”

The seventh overtime/shootout win by Toronto amid its nine victories in March staves off playoff elimination one more day, but the lost point was costly for the Rangers after eighth-place Boston and ninth place Atlanta also won.

“You don’t get that third goal, it just leaves the door open for what happened,” New York coach John Tortorella said.

He meant John Mitchell’s goal early in the second and Tomas Kaberle’s pinball shot from deep in the corner with 3:35 to play.

“(Bleeping) terrible goal,” Lundqvist said. “I timed it bad. I tried to kick it to the side, it took a roll and it hit my skate.”

Joked Kaberle: “Hey, people here have been telling me to shoot more for the past 11 years.”

Only once since 1952-53 have both these Original Six teams missed the playoffs.

Nikolai Kulemin, stoned on one shot close in, with another off the post, jammed in the OT winner at 39 ticks, the same time Mikhail Grabovski beat Atlanta on Thursday.

“(The overtime wins) are great for our confidence,” Viktor Stalberg said. “We don’t have anything to lose and everything to win when we go in there. The Rangers were more nervous.

“Lundqvist is the best we’ve had in Sweden for years, so this is a big confidence boost for Jonas.”

New York finished the game minus its Pickering-born pest Sean Avery, who suffered a leg injury in a routine collision with Luke Schenn in the second period after jawing and shoving with his real rival, Dion Phaneuf.

“We have good chemistry going with some people,” coach Ron Wilson said of the overtime magic. “Kulie is as strong as a horse. The guy trying to push him off the puck on that goal actually interfered with his own goalie.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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