Rolling in the Isles

Toronto Maple Leafs Ben Ondrus chases the puck by Islanders Garth Snow and Chris Campoli during...

Toronto Maple Leafs Ben Ondrus chases the puck by Islanders Garth Snow and Chris Campoli during first period NHL game in Toronto, April 5, 2006. (Alex Urosevic/Sun)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

The Maple Leafs' new favourite NHL goalie has to be Garth Snow.

Though some might paint last night's 3-2 win over the New York Islanders as a show of character and courage in a season almost completely lost, the reality is the Leafs were lucky to emerge with a victory against a club riddled with neophytes and a netminder riddled with holes.

Twice in the third period, the Leafs scored because Snow was unable to get a full handle on shots. Alexei Ponikarovsky got the winner at 17:58 after a shot by Nik Antropov trickled through Snow.

Earlier, Darcy Tucker notched the tying goal when his shot squeaked into the net after Snow got most of it.

The goals tempered what was a mostly uninspiring effort by the Leafs, who moved to within six points of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We didn't seem to have a lot of teamwork going on," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "We turned the puck over a lot. We were playing the kind of game that we have played and don't win. This time (we) found a way to get it done."

Tucker had two goals while Ponikarovsky, the Leafs' most improved player in 2005-06, hit a nice milestone with his 20th. Two years ago, he had nine.

Jean-Sebastien Aubin made 27 saves for his fourth win in five starts and could well start again tonight in Boston versus the Bruins.

Though Mikael Tellqvist has played well against the Bruins, Quinn said later that "it would be hard to make a switch" because Aubin has been so good.

Against an Islanders team that was pockmarked with prospects -- seven have played fewer than than 23 NHL games this season -- the Leafs had nothing going through 40 minutes.

After a goalless first period, Alexei Yashin scored on a power play early in the second. Tucker responded five minutes later on a beautiful pass from Kyle Wellwood.

So, how did the Leafs build on that goal? They didn't. Performing with zero urgency, they had two shots on Snow during a two-minute, two-man advantage with less than five minutes to play in the middle period. Only because Aubin stopped 16 Islanders shots in the second were the Leafs able to stick around.

Miro Satan scored in the third before Tucker and Ponikarovsky replied.

The Leafs are mathematically in the playoff hunt -- their magic number for being eliminated is nine (points lost by the Leafs combined with those gained by the Lightning). Toronto is in 10th in the conference with 79 points, one behind the Atlanta Thrashers, who also won last night.

But even some members of the so-called Leafs Nation figured the match was not worth the bother. Though attendance at the Air Canada Centre was announced as 19,317, empty seats dotted the red and gold sections.

"A huge win for us, obviously," captain Mats Sundin said. "Last goal, it was great to see it go in. We didn't have our best game and things did not really go our way, but we found a way to battle. If we go into Boston and win, anything can happen."

REPORT CARD

C Forwards: There was not a lot in the way of pressure, scoring chances and forechecking.

C+ Defence: The Leafs weren't bad in this department but still allowed 29 shots, seven more than they registered.

B- Goaltending: Jean-Sebastien Aubin again demonstrated there has to be a job somewhere in the NHL for him next year.


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