Just 24 hours after falling to a New York Islanders club stocked with minor-leaguers, the Maple Leafs last night knocked off the well-rested defending Stanley Cup champions after returning home from Long Island in the wee hours of the morning.
Jason Allison recorded his first two-goal game as a Leaf and Mikael Tellqvist was excellent in a rare home start, making 29 saves as the Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1.
"I think we have a little more confidence because we have been a lot more consistent," Allison said. "We expect more from everyone in here. We have to treat every game like a playoff game because they are. We have a lot of confidence that we are going to get in (to the playoffs)."
The Leafs will need more than a good feeling about themselves, but the past three games have been a start. Of a possible six points, the Leafs have secured five. And forget about the Montreal Canadiens, who won last night. The Lightning fell to eighth place in the Eastern Conference and with 70 points, is six ahead of the Leafs and Islanders. The Atlanta Thrashers have 66 points.
Last night's win did not come without a price. Defenceman Alexander Khavanov will be re-evaluated tomorrow after leaving the game with an upper-body injury, possibly a shoulder problem, in the third period.
"He had some discomfort and will be checked out," general manager John Ferguson said.
If Khavanov is out, it's probable Brendan Bell would be recalled from the Toronto Marlies. Another Marlies defenceman, Brad Brown, was being examined in a Syracuse hospital last night after injuring his lower leg in a game against the Crunch. Leafs centre Eric Lindros, meanwhile, had successful right wrist surgery on Thursday. His recovery is expected to take at least six months.
Is Tampa worried about the Leafs' sudden charge?
"I don't give a damn about the Leafs," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We're not going to look over our shoulder."
A jittery group of Lightning players was stymied time and again by Tellqvist, who had not started at the Air Canada Centre since Jan. 28. A giveaway in the first period by Aki Berg to Vincent Lecavalier led to a huge save by Tellqvist, one which set the tone for the rest of the evening. Only Ruslan Fedotenko, from a bad angle with the Leafs ahead 2-0 in the third period, was able to beat Tellqvist.
Leafs coach Pat Quinn said he was not sure whether Tellqvist or Ed Belfour, who has been improved lately, would start against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
"It feels really good," Tellqvist said of his performance. "Personally it was important, and to get the two points. Me and Eddie are pushing each other. If we continue to push each other and get wins, you never know what is going to happen."
Matt Stajan, Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov also scored for Toronto. Goals by Allison and Sundin were scored during five-on-three advantages, giving the Leafs 19 goals in that situation. They lead the NHL in that category.
Tie Domi was in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against the Islanders on Friday. Jeff O'Neill, for the third time this season, was a healthy scratch.
"We're not out, in our minds, until the last bell goes," Quinn said. "We have to find ways to win, but five of six (points) is okay and we have to build on that."
B+ Forwards: Goals at even-strength, shorthanded and on the power play. It did not hurt that Sean Burke had an off-night.
B- Defence: Mikael Tellqvist had to work harder than he probably should have but the group tightened up in the third period.
A Goaltending: Tellqvist won't make it easy for coach Pat Quinn to go back to Ed Belfour, especially after a first-star outing.