Maple Leafs claw back

Maple Leafs goalie Ed Belfour is all smiles with the media after getting his 448th win last night...

Maple Leafs goalie Ed Belfour is all smiles with the media after getting his 448th win last night against the Islanders, moving him to second on the all-time list. (Toronto Sun/David Lucas)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

The Maple Leafs have been looking as desolate as Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

Until about 18 minutes into last night's game, when they began lighting up the New York Islanders like Nathan Phillips Square.

By the time the 9-6 victory was in the books, the Leafs had overcome seven first period minors and decked the halls of the Air Canada Centre with:

- Most goals at home in six years, including six consecutive, to erase a 4-2 Isles' lead.

- Rookie Kyle Wellwood's first four-point game in the National Hockey League.

- Linemate and birthday boy Matt Stajan's three-pointer and near hat trick.

- Fourteen Leafs with at least a point, including captain Mats Sundin's first multi-point effort since Nov. 26.

- Last, but not least, Ed Belfour finally picked up his 448th career National Hockey League career win, passing the late ex-Leaf Terry Sawchuk for second place. It was Belfour's sixth attempt at the milestone and came after four one-goal losses and 14 goals against the past two games.

"We have to get points, I don't care how ugly it looks," defenceman Ken Klee said as the Leafs denied New York a chance to pass them for eighth place.

"Tonight, we just weren't going to be denied. You saw it from our guys, how hungry we were. When we went out there (the past few games) and said 'geez, I hope something bad doesn't happen,' things weren't going our way."

The Leafs survived two knee-on-knee collisions that saw Carlo Colaiacovo and Jeff O'Neill hobble off, having already lost Eric Lindros, Tie Domi, Nik Antropov and Alex Steen. A couple of them might be back for the home-and- home divisional series with Boston later in the week.

The Leafs came into the game with four losses in their past five games, capped by a brutal 8-2 drubbing in Ottawa.

With a steady diet of teams below them in the standings taking them through the holidays, the Leafs needed some discipline, but fell afoul of referees Paul Devorski and Dennis LaRue in the first period.

New York had six power plays in the first period and scored three times, making it nine against the Leafs in less than four periods since Saturday.

"What am I supposed to say?" coach Pat Quinn asked on the touchy subject of publically berating the league's new officiating standards. "That's not my job. My job is to sit there and take the lumps, I guess. In spite of what (league) people talk about, the kinds of calls tonight, you just wonder what's going on sometimes."

But beginning with Mariusz Czerkawski's second goal in as many games as Sundin's right winger, the Leafs came charging back. O'Neill hit for the first time in eight games, as the whole Wellwood-Stajan line cranked up. Though the Leafs became sloppy in the third period again, they had the needed offensive cushion.

Prior to last night, they had seven goals in its past four games.

"You'll lose nine out of 10 nights in this league giving up six goals," Sundin said. "We have to learn and get better."

After being torn apart by the line of Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza on Saturday, the Leafs gave up the first goal to the significantly lower profile trio of Eric Godard, Radik Martinek and Rob Collins.

Toronto came back on Alexei Ponikarovsky's ninth of the year on a nifty feed from Jason Allison, tying the former's career high in goals.


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