This NHL action is fantastic

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

The new NHL is teeming with shots, injustices, weird rules and flukey bounces.

It is altogether unpredictable, hideously unjust and darn near irresistible.

All those elements and more were provided last night at the ACC as the Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 5-4 in penalty shots on a goal by Eric Lindros.

This despite being outshot 53-32 by the Bruins in regulation.

Referees Marc Joannette and Chris Rooney gave the Bruins twenty minutes in power-play time compared to 6:13 for Toronto. Included in the parade was a cheap call to Ken Klee for hooking with 2:10 left in regulation.

Compounding the issue soon after was Alex Steen's thoughtless double minor for high-sticking Patrice Bergeron. That meant the Leafs played two men short for 31 seconds, and a man down for 3:29.

By the time the buzzer sounded at the end of regulation, signalling a tie and at least a point, the sellout crowd was going gonzo.

More penalty killing, Lindros' goal on a neat backhand combined with Belfour's stoning of Glen Murray, Joe Thornton and Bergeron capped a memorable night of entertainment.

Yes, entertainment. Imagine. The Maple Leafs went a distance last night toward making their ticket prices seem altogether justified. It was that much fun.

Did I mention the game-tying goal, a shorthanded effort from Alexei Ponikarovski with a little over four minutes left.

Other than that, nothing much happened.

Unless you count Belfour whiffing on two goals and freezing when caught in the trapezoid area behind the net late in the third for the Bruins' go-ahead goal by ex-Leaf Brad Boyes.

"The puck was on the outside of the line but it slipped in," Belfour said. "As soon as it slipped in, I wasn't there in time and I wasn't even thinking about it. Then I couldn't touch it and I got caught out."

Had Belfour played the puck he would been penalized, which would have made it the perfect showcase night for the NHL.

Let's recap. Equipment. Belfour said he has missed half-a-dozen goals this season because of new league rules to bring the trapper down to size. "It's the only piece of equipment that I've had trouble with this year," he said.

Wild penalties. See above.

Wide-open offence. See shot total.

Viewer euphoria. Belfour went from bum to hero to messiah, all in a night's work.

"You feel terrible for the guys (on poor goals from Ian Moran and Murray) but I just told myself 'keep working hard, it'll work out.' "

The crowd swung for and against Belfour, who was shaky in Toronto's 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. But as he readied to face the Bruins shooters, the 'Eddie, Eddie' chant was deafening and here is the beauty of the shootout.

It is, in the way baseball and boxing can be, brilliantly illustrative. Two guys, a puck and nowhere to hide. If the purpose of the game is to showcase the most brilliant stars, what better way than to clear the ice and let them shine. The people sure liked it.

"You definitely feel (the crowd)," Belfour said. "It's a great feeling to know, even when you're not having a great game, you give up a couple of goals you don't normally let in, that they're still supporting you."


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