MONTREAL -- Power plays are becoming a big pain in the neck for the Maple Leafs as they try to make informed decisions on their roster during the National Hockey League's crash course on new rules.
Just ask Jeff O'Neill, who escaped serious injury when struck on the back of his neck while screening for teammate Tomas Kaberle last night, or coach Pat Quinn, who couldn't assess much 5-on-5 play during the Leafs' 3-2 loss to the Canadiens. All five goals came with the man advantage, with 22 penalties shaking down 12-10 against Toronto. The Leafs' pre-season record was evened at
"We lost one of our penalty-killing forwards (O'Neill) early, not the kind of game you want at this point," Quinn said. "We've played three games where we were pretty good (handling the new standards), but tonight there were ... different calls.
"This is the part of training camp where you want to make decisions (based on) 5-on-5, but after something like that, it's hard to do. That was painful. I never had a look at (John) Pohl."
O'Neill said afterwards that his head and neck were "stiff, but fine."
Kaberle was a one-man wrecking crew, with his wounding of O'Neill, a goal, topping the Leafs with almost 26 minutes of ice, breaking up plays and deflecting the Habs' winner past hometown teammate J.F. Racine.
While the Leafs are glad the pass-happy defenceman finally is shooting more, especially with power plays bound to dominate the early weeks of the new-look NHL, Kaberle was mortified when he nailed O'Neill just under his helmet. A few days ago, he accidentally knocked Carlo Colaiacovo out for a few days with a shot off the latter's foot.
"I talked to Jeff right away between periods," Kaberle said. "Thank God it got his helmet first."
Jason Allison, in his first NHL game in two years after a litany of injuries, debuted with an assist on Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal.
"I was antsy at first, not getting out there because of the penalties, but it went all right," Allison said.
After tonight, general manager John Ferguson could further trim his roster of 37. Bubble boys in the lineup last night included forwards Ben Ondrus, Steve Thomas, Kyle Wellwood, Pohl, defencemen Staffan Kronwall, Colaiacovo and Andy Wozniewski and Racine. Scratched, but expected in the lineup this evening are forwards Alex Steen, Nathan Perrott, Matt Stajan and defenceman Bryan Marchment.
"We'll see," the GM said about cuts. "Some players might make it easy for us."
Despite the winning goal, credited to Tomas Plekanec, Racine lived the Quebec goalie's Saturday-night dream in relief of Ed Belfour. He stopped a breakaway by Plekanec and made two huge glove saves.
It was a timely performance with J.S. Aubin ailing, but Racine still has to get past Mikael Tellqvist as Belfour's backup.
Brown had not played before last night, but made key defensive plays. Wellwood, outstanding against the Habs earlier this week in Toronto, was cooled off last night, along with Thomas. But Ponikarovsky was a physical force in scoring his second of the pre-season, while Alex Khavanov's fourth assist gave him the team's exhibition scoring lead.