February 16, 2012
Leafs end skid with OT win
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Tim Connolly ended his own personal dry spell and, in the process, did the same for his struggling team.
Having not scored in his previous 17 games, Connollyís overtime goal gave the slumping Maple Leafs a dramatic 4-3 victory over the speedy Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Wednesday night, snapping Torontoís four-game losing streak in the process.
Connolly took a perfect pass from Joffrey Lupul and drained the winner on a two-on-one, putting a smile on the faces of his teammates as they head to Vancouver for a Saturday date against the Canucks.
The victory put the eighth-place Leafs three points up on the ninth-place Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference.
Lupul was the star of the show, registering a two-point night.
The Leafs came into Rexall Place having not posted a victory since defeating the Oilers 6-3 on Feb. 6 at the Air Canada Centre.
Mired in a four-game skid since then, Ron Wilsonís team had been outscored 10-1 in its two previous outings, a 5-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday followed by a 5-1 setback at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
Indeed, the once-potent Leafs offence seemed to have dried up, scoring just once in the previous 120 minutes
Ironically, it took them just 98 seconds of the first period to put two goals on the board, more than they had managed in the previous two games.
With more than 20 friends and family in the stands, Edmonton boy Lupul needed just 40 seconds from the opening faceoff to open the scoring. Lupulís screen shot was assisted on by Keith Aulie, who was just called up from the Marlies earlier this week after Carl Gunnarsson was placed on IR with an injured ankle.
With the several thousand Leafs fans in attendance still buzzing over the early goal, Matthew Lombardi upped Torontoís lead to 2-0 at 1:38, skating in alone on Nikolai Khabibulin before finishing off the play.
If the Oilers were starting Khabibulin in order to showcase him in advance of the Feb. 27 trade deadline, thatís not the type of start they were looking for from the veteran goalie.
But the Oilers would respond at 2:32 when Ben Eager drained a rebound past James Reimer to narrow the Toronto advantage to 2-1.
The first five minutes may have been the most exciting weíve seen all season, featuring three goals and a lively scrap between the Leafs forward Mike Brown and the Oilersí Ben Eager. The decision in the scrap must go to the bigger Eager, although Brown did hang in there.
The second period was dominated by the Oilers, who outshot the visitors 13-3 and tied up the game 2-2 on a goal by the electrifying Taylor Hall.
Hall was all over the ice all night, including flattening Gardiner in the first period. When this kid puts a bit of beef on his bones, heíll be scary. Check that ó he already is.
The Leafs regained the lead at 6:46 of the third when Gardinerís point shot sailed through Khabibulin, who was being effectively screened by Toronto forward Mikhail Grabovski. It was Gardinerís second goal against the Oilers in a nine-day span.
But the Oilers Kiddy Corps struck again to knot the game 3-3. This time it was Jordan Eberle doing the damage, notching his 25th of the season after fighting off David Steckel, then ripping a perfect shot past a helpless Reimer.
Attempting to shake up his lineup for the game, Wilson replaced defenceman Luke Schenn and forward Joey Crabb with Keith Aulie and Colby Armstrong respectively.
The Leafs will finish off this three-game trip through western Canada with a date in Vancouver against the Canucks on Saturday.