Leafs' comeback stuns Preds

Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne stops a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs' Tyler Boak.  (REUTERS/Mike...

Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne stops a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs' Tyler Boak. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:49 PM ET

Kris Versteeg remembers the worst losing streak of his career: A 13-gamer in junior.

For Ron Wilson, it was a 10-game slide when he was coach of the San Jose Sharks that sticks out.

Thanks to a pair of power play goals by the first-year Leaf, both Versteeg and his coach can stop thinking about it after Toronto finally snapped out of its eight-game losing streak Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Despite trailing 3-0 and 4-1 through a putrid opening 25 minutes of the game, the Leafs were able to engineer a huge rally then hang on for a 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators.

In a game that had a little bit of everything, the Leafs had one period (the first) where they were worse than they've been all season.

They followed it up with a second period where they showed their best offence in weeks, scoring five in the period. They followed that up with a third in which Jonas Gustavsson came on for an apparently hurt J-S Giguere to preserve the win, the Leafs first in three weeks.

Where to start on a night that broke the trend of tiresome Tuesdays at the ACC?

Well, the beginning of the game looked like a disaster for the Leafs after 11 first-period giveways resulted in a 3-0 Nashville lead and the Leafs looked doomed. The worst of those was a giveaway in front of the net by Mikhail Grabovski that resulted in one of the easiest goals of Martin Erat's career.

Towards the end of an opening period in which they looked equal parts disinterested and disoriented, a Luke Schenn goal in the final minute to make it 3-1 gave them so home.

And then came the craziness a wild, wacky and highly 20 minutes in which the Leafs scored four goals, all of them on the power play.

With the Leafs first man advantage situation, defenceman Brett Lebda mishandled a puck at the blueline and fell.

That allowed the Preds Marcel Goc alone on a breakaway and the first short-handed goal against the Leafs all season. That gave Nashville a 4-1 lead and the subsequent boos served as an alarm clock for the late-arriving Leafs.

With a steady string of Nashville penalties still to come Versteeg, recently installed on the point during the power play, broke out of his middling season.

A pair of sharp shots from the point resulted in goals (his third and fourth of the season), each with his team enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage. Suddenly the Leafs were alive and in the thick of a 4-3 hockey game.

The middle period wasn't even halfway done and there was plenty of excitement still to come. Toronto appeared to tie it with 8:44 remaining when a shot from the point by rookie Keith Aulie, playing in just his second game, drifted past Preds 'keeper Pekka Renna.

The contact was marginal at most, but the Leafs didn't have huge licence to complain given the gift win the got last month when Colton Orr steamrolled Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen. Then there was the fact that the Leafs had been awarded five consecutive power plays.

And there was still more to come.

After Nashville's Patric Hornqvist ran over Leafs goaltender J-S Giguere, the sixth, count 'em six, power play of the period resulted in a Mikhail Grabovski power play goal, the Leafs fourth that period with the extra man.

A power play that had been horrid during the losing streak, suddenly had four in a shade over 10 minutes. Clarke MacArthur, the Leafs leading scorer, added to his totals with three assists in the middle period.

After a number of big saves to keep his team in it, Leafs goaltender J-S Giguere went to the dressing room with an apparent injury with 13:10 remaining in the third and he couldn't have had a more efficient tag-team partner than Jonas Gustavsson.

The Monster made a couple of huge saves on the power play.

Lost in the wild second period was rookie Nazem Kadri's first career point - an assist on Versteeg's first of the game.


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