Help arrives in nick of time

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:34 PM ET

 They are back, your Toronto Maple Leafs, on the shoulders of the wounded warriors.

 Back in body, back in spirit, back, not incidentally, in their first-round series against the Ottawa Senators who were restored, for one night at least, to their status as bridesmaids.

  Score it 2-0 for the Maple Leafs, survivors thanks to a badly needed transfusion after a 4-2 loss in Game 1.

 Into the lineup and on to the first line last night came the game, little Darcy Tucker. Midway through the first period, Tucker was working feverishly behind the Leafs net, digging for the puck, challenging anyone wearing white.

 The puck came out to Mats Sundin, who found Gary Roberts and a few seconds later, the puck was in the Senators net. No assist for Tucker, who had been hobbled with a abdominal injury and who was playing in place of Mikael Renberg. None needed.

 "(Defenceman) Ken (Klee) and Darcy coming back, that was a big lift," understated Roberts.

 Klee, back from a shoulder injury, earned 20 minutes and looked completely at ease. His partner, Tomas Kaberle, no coincidence either, stopped treating the puck as a live hand grenade.

 It's a strange alchemy that by swapping two bodies, the Maple Leafs' approach was recharged but the addition of the two new players rippled throughout the lineup.

 "There was more energy, much more energy than in the first game," observed Roberts.

 Kaberle played his best game in weeks. He handled the puck confidently and made consistently sound decisions in more than 21 minutes of ice time.

 'SENSE OF COMFORT'

 "Ken was his partner for a long time," said Leafs coach Pat Quinn. "There is a sense of comfort that comes with some guys playing with certain guys."

 "It felt great out there," Klee said. "Anytime you get into a playoff game and get a shutout, I'm happy."

 Back too, after a middling first game, came Ed Belfour. The Leafs goalie's best moment came five minutes into the third period when he stopped Daniel Alfredsson on a point-blank chance. The Sens were enjoying a two-man advantage and the stop was delivered with such resounding impunity, the rest of the night smelled of anticlimax.

 The Senators' best weapon was the dive. Twice referees Kevin Pollock and Brad Watson ticketed them for diving and another three or four supposed infractions were blatant dives. The Leafs, for their part, got a call from Roberts and one in favour of Tie Domi late in the game the very same way.

 "It's playoffs," Klee said. "Teams will be looking for any edge they can get."

 Maybe that's where the returning Leafs made their greatest contribution. Tucker was feisty but escaped the night without a penalty and showed remarkable restraint with three minutes left in the game when he was abused behind the Ottawa net. A blatant elbow on Tucker from Brian Pothier went uncalled.

 "Did you see him there tonight?" Quinn said. "Two black eyes and he didn't get a call."

 Same for Klee and Domi, another punishing performer who is playing with a wrecked hand. Domi's hit on Senators go-to guy Marian Hossa was the biggest moment not to hit the scoreboard.

 They will be talking today of the near knee-on-knee hit by Vaclav Varada that could have taken out Sundin in the third. They will be talking of the dives.

 It is a series again and everybody got what they wanted.

 The Sens earned a split, the Leafs, thanks to two returning players, another life.


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