Leafs, Allison both winners

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Jason Allison was a man in need of a break late last night and the Maple Leafs a team in need of a miracle.

Both were satisfied when Allison sent a wildly entertaining Montreal Canadiens- Leafs game to overtime with a wacky goal and Jeff O'Neill sealed a 5-4 victory on a power-play slap shot with 47 seconds to go.

With the Leafs near exhaustion at the conclusion of back-to-back games, Allison intercepted a puck behind the Canadiens net which chipped off the glass, rolled down behind Jose Theodore, off the crossbar and into the net with 2:28 to play.

"Nice timing," said Allison, who was moved to the wing when his sluggish play at centre limited him to two goals, and the prospect of decreasing ice time loomed when Mats Sundin returned. "We're finding ways to come back when we don't play well, so it's a character builder. It's a game of breaks and we've had our share of both this year."

Toronto had fed off Ed Belfour's goaltending early in the game and legions of friendly fans among 21, 273 at the Bell Centre. After the Habs were caught with too many men on the ice in the extra period, the Leafs' power-play glitter twins, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle, set up O'Neill's one-timer winner.

In the boisterous crowd, Leafs fans had the final say in the third one-goal result of this year's series.

"It's definitely interesting," said O'Neill, who saw blue- and-white-clad supporters pack the HSBC Center in Buffalo the night before in a 5-2 loss. "This is my first year with this team and it seems like wherever we go, there's a lot of, 'Go Leafs go!' "

Though the high-wire act in their own zone is wearing thin, O'Neill's goal gave the Leafs a 4-4 record in the past eight games, an imperfect loss-win-loss-win script in that span. Allison, meanwhile, hopes he quieted some trade rumours that began when his dissatisfaction with his status became public.

"There's a lot of speculation because we're a little short on the back end and we have depth in the middle," he said. "But if it happens, it happens.

Montreal seemed headed for its 11th one-goal win after the fading Leafs gave up the lead on goals by Steve Begin and Alexei Kovalev just 1:15 apart early in the third period. But the Habs paid dearly after an 0-for-4 power play in the first period when Belfour made 18 saves. Toronto killed off seven of eight on the night and had a McCabe power-play goal, a short-handed effort from Alexei Ponikarovsky and a nifty give-and-go between Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood that resulted in the rookie giving the Leafs a 3-2 lead going to the third.

Andrei Markov and Michael Ryder had the other Montreal goals.


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