January 3, 2012
Leafs blast Bolts
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Amazing what a little positive thinking on penalty killing can do — and some quick-thinking on home repairs.
After hearing the entire hockey world condemn their efforts with a man short — and committing a huge part of Monday’s first New Year’s practice to the cause — the Maple Leafs rode a 5-for-5 effort to a 7-3 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday. It was the first perfect PK night since they beat Washington on
Nov. 19 and the Bolts only came up with three shots.
“We’re not going to dwell on (the league-worst) 72%,” declared Darryl Boyce. “We have a new look now. We’re going to start fresh and try to motivate each other. What’s happened has happened.”
Escaping potential disaster during a 5-on-3 against league scoring leader Steven Stamkos, Toronto held its one-goal lead into the second period before the goal surge began. Boyce blocked a Marc-Andre Bergeron rocket and David Steckel won a huge draw, later lost his stick and still stared down a hard point drive.
“The way it has been for us, you think ‘oh geez’, ” coach Ron Wilson said when the 45-second 5-on-3 began. “Then they made a bad play that hit his broken stick and went back to the point.”
However, the Leafs were more aggressive in the neutral zone and showed they absorbed Wilson and his assistants’ lectures the day before.
“We had the shot-blocking angles and when the play was along the wall, we forced their forwards down and it kind of had a pinching effect,” Wilson said.
A players’ meeting on Monday and the importance of starting nine of the next 10 at home also had a galvanizing effect on the team. But the seven goals and an end to a three-game losing streak wouldn’t have happened without the big kills.
“We were finally able to get through a 5-on-3,” said excited winning goalie Jonas Gustavsson. “That felt like such a long time ago. It felt like a turning point.”
Gustavsson also saluted defenceman Cody Franson for putting his net back on the pegs after Matthew Lombardi had saved a goal by lifting Vince Lecavalier’s stick. That allowed play to continue for a Carl Gunnarsson goal to make it 2-1. Franson would have let it be of course had the Lightning re-gained the puck.
“Really good heads up play,” Gustavsson said. “That’s just a sign everyone was sharp tonight. Small details like that. It’s how you win games.”
Four goals on four shots for both clubs in 1:49 found the Leafs in front 5-3 entering the third. Steven Stamkos did increase his lead on Phil Kessel and others for the NHL scoring derby, but that was answered by Joffrey Lupul, lobbing a high puck that Mikhail Grabovski seized and snapped in one motion over Mathieu Garon.
Lupul then left ex-Leaf Pavel Kubina wide open for a faceoff circle drive, only to have Boyce put the nail in Garon’s night right after. Matt Frattin, working with new linemates Lombardi and Nazem Kadri, buried his fifth against sub Dwayne Roloson on Frattin’s 24th birthday.
Tampa Bay, which also gave up a touchdown the last time it faced Toronto, had won three straight and was bidding to draw within two points of the Leafs.
Steve Downie, who was jousting with Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf throughout the first period, got under his skin again early in the second. Boyce took an extra shot at Downie on a line change, making the Leafs kill a fourth minor. Downie and Boyce were given misconducts at the end of the second when the officials finally had enough of the former’s antics.
“Everybody knows his reputation,” Boyce said of Downie. “A trade off with Dion going to the box is not beneficial to us. So I just had to step in.”
Phaneuf added the sixth Leafs goal and Kessel his 22nd on a 5-on-3, making the Leafs 2-for-6 on the power play.
Gustavsson was good when he had to be and fortunate at other times in facing 24 shots. Two or three hit the post and him, but stayed out. He fared much better than James Reimer has of late in closer games.
“Luck was on our side tonight,” Wilson said.