Maple Leafs gain ground

Chad Kilger scored the only goal -- on a penalty shot -- in the Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 win over...

Chad Kilger scored the only goal -- on a penalty shot -- in the Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, March 19, 2006. (Toronto Sun File/Greg Henkenhaf)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:54 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Darkness was closing in on the Maple Leafs' playoff hopes at Mellon Arena last night, both figuratively and literally.

That is, until a Mikael Tellqvist highlight-reel save and Chad Kilger's red-light shot kept their pursuit of eighth place alive.

"Bizarre," Kilger said of a 1-0 decision over the Penguins on his penalty-shot goal with 6:51 to play in a game delayed a total of 45 minutes by two lighting failures, one a brief but building-wide blackout.

"An odd game," understated Leafs coach Pat Quinn, whose team ended a poor three-game trip by moving within three points of the Montreal Canadiens. The Atlanta Thrashers are a point ahead in ninth place, but depending on other results, the Leafs could go into Montreal for two games this week and catch the Habs.

"Crazy," said Mikael Tellqvist, who chowed down and drank coffee during the blackout and had heat packs applied to his body so he wouldn't stiffen.

The 21 saves marked his second National Hockey League shutout, coming in his fifth start in place of the injured Ed Belfour.

The Leafs had reason to send the Pens a giant Thank You card before the game, as they have knocked off the Canadiens three times this year, including Saturday night, to keep the Leafs in striking distance.

But the Leafs, who lost in Buffalo and New York before limping in here, played down to the level of the last-place Pens, who have Sidney Crosby, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and not much more. Toronto mustered just 23 shots.

Fleury almost shut them down, but Tellqvist stopped Crosby on a breakaway just before Rob Scuderi hauled down Kilger. Tellqvist had been given a heads-up on Crosby's breakaway tendencies before the game by Leafs' goaltending instructor Steve McKichan.

"You notice it's (Crosby) coming in on you right away; he's one of a kind," Tellqvist said. "The puck was rolling, I took a chance on a poke check and he put it in my pads."

Toronto will have to subdue the Pens once more this year, on the last night of the schedule at the ACC in a game that likely will have post-season implications.

LIGHTS WENT OUT

The Leafs had just begun a five-minute power play, courtesy of an Eric Cairns boarding major on Ben Ondrus, when the lights went out the first time. But they generated nothing when play resumed 18 minutes later, nor during the final 1:53 of the man-advantage when a 26-minute halt in play saw the remaining 7:08 of the second period fused to the third.

"Our power play again generated nothing," Quinn groused of an overall 0-for-3 night. "We got out-worked on just about all of them."

Winger Alexei Ponikarovsky was scratched because of a flu bug. Quinn already had decided Matt Stajan would be back in after his first benching of the season in New York, but it's likely Ponikarovsky's plight saved Jeff O'Neill a return to the press box.

The Leafs have to play the powerful Carolina Hurricanes at home tomorrow before facing the Habs.

"We have some momentum, now we have to use it," Kilger said.


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