Carlo gets net result

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Carlo Colaiacovo's first NHL goal may get on to some blooper tapes before it hits the highlight reel, but the Maple Leafs defenceman doesn't care.

Colaiacovo, playing in his sixth NHL game, scored at 14:03 of the third period of last night's 6-4 victory against the visiting Washington Capitals. His initial shot from the point was stopped by the blocker of goalie Brent Johnson, but the puck then bounced up and over the netminder and into the open net, barely making it across the goal line.

"It's a nice feeling to have it here, especially at home in front of family and friends," the 22-year-old Toronto native said. "It was a little bit of a hot potato, but I will take it any way I can get it. It's an achievement and a lot of kids dream of it. I'm happy about it."

Colaiacovo had been recalled late Monday night from the Toronto Marlies in the wake of Aki Berg's latest injury. Leafs coach Pat Quinn said Berg's sprained knee is not as serious as the club first thought and termed Berg as day to day, but the Finn probably won't return until after this weekend.

Wade Belak, meanwhile, was absent yesterday for personal reasons.

One performance does not mean a ton in the grand scheme of things, but if Colaiacovo continues to show the poise he did last night, there's no question he should remain in the lineup when others are ready to return.

Partnered with fellow rookie Staffan Kronwall -- the two have played together in the minors -- Colaiacovo was steady. And that was not an easy task, given the topsy-turvy nature of the game against the Capitals.

"He stepped in really nicely," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "He stopped worrying that he is supposed to be the next big player for us and he is going to try to play."

That level-headed approach endeared Colaiacovo, the Leafs' first-round pick in 2001, to Marlies coach Paul Maurice. Although Colaiacovo appeared in just six games for the Marlies because of a shoulder injury, he had six points and was not discouraged by being sent down. Patience has been integral for Colaiacovo, who benefited greatly from Maurice's up-tempo practices.

"Playing defence in the NHL is a process, a body of work," Maurice said.

"His attitude has been outstanding. I've never sat and wondered about where his focus was."

Twice in the past, Colaiacovo has played in two games for the Leafs, and was in the season opener last month.

"I want to prove to myself and the team that I can play here," Colaiacovo said. "I'm confident but I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. This is where I want to be and this is what every player hopes for."


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