Bubble boys, Raycroft shine

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Paul Maurice wanted to see his Marlies bubble boys under fire and his No. 1 goaltender rise to the challenge of his understudies.

That made last night at the Bell Centre the perfect storm, as the winless Habs sent a veteran-laden team against an NHL/AHL aggregation of Maple Leafs, with 11 power plays as ammunition. The Leafs weathered the wild evening for a 4-3 win, with first star Andrew Raycroft stopping 32 shots as Toronto improved to 3-1 in the pre-season.

"It was great, a Saturday night in Montreal and (the Canadiens) put a real solid lineup out there," Raycroft said. "We had a lot of guys fighting for jobs and they worked hard. I'm sure they impressed the organization."

Leading the production was winger Alex Suglobov, with a three-point night that nudged him past Mats Sundin for the team's pre-season scoring lead. He assisted on goals by Jeremy Williams and Matt Stajan, the latter beating Cristobal Huet for the clincher with 6:07 to play.

Toronto's third and fourth lines were packed with Marlies and five of the six defencemen played for Maurice last year, as well as getting brief looks in Toronto.

"A lot of them hope they proved last year they can play in this league," Stajan said. "Each one of them brings something different to the team."

Maurice was not expecting miracles last night, given the different lineup strengths and a whack of second-period penalties. He almost expected the parade to the box.

"By this time we figured fatigue would be a factor because we've worked so hard the past 10 days of camp," Maurice said. "We had a lot of reaching from behind penalties, but we had a fresh goaltender. We blocked a lot of shots (20), but in the end, the goaltender made the biggest stops."

While backups Mikael Tellqvist and Jean-Sebastien Aubin played big roles in wins over the Habs and Ottawa Senators, designated No. 1 Raycroft had been beaten four times on the power play in a loss to Buffalo. Michael Ryder and Mark Streit scored odd-man goals last night and Saku Koivu clicked a second after Alex Steen exited the box.

"You want to see every (goalie) do well and get wins, but this is about me going out and getting my game ready, whether I'm No. 1, 2 or 4," Raycroft said. "Killing 5-on-3s and 5-on-4s takes a lot out of guys. That's when mistakes happen, but that's the new NHL and that's the way it is."

Raycroft made two third-period stops on Habs' fan favourite Guillaime Latendresse, one with an out-stretched stick that 21,283 at the Bell Centre were sure was going in.

Eleven Leafs were in the lineup for the second consecutive game and Maurice intends o use a few again this evening in Halifax against the Senators, the maximum workload allowed on consecutive nights by the league. Aubin will play tonight.

Among the standout newcomers last night were Ian White, Jay Harrison, Bates Battaglia, Kris Newbury, Erik Westrum and Jeremy Williams, who were all over the Habs with a good transition game. Williams and Kyle Wellwood had the other Leafs goals, Williams appearing in his first Toronto contest after scoring against Pittsburgh in his lone Toronto appearance last year.

The Leafs had everything but an efficient penalty kill, riding Alex Suglobov's three points and huge saves from Andrew Raycroft, who recorded his first pre-season win.


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