Well-timed eruption

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

The big crowd at the Air Canada Centre last night got to witness a very rare and wondrous double.

First, there was the spectacular volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Maurice. And then, something even more rare, a Maple Leafs win.

It's safe to say that the second event is directly related to the first.

And at the end of it all, the Leafs were able to say goodbye to their seven-game losing streak with a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

We take you now to the first minute of the second period. Tampa has just scored to take a 3-1 lead and, if you look closely, you can see the telltale wisps of steam curling up from Toronto coach Paul Maurice's ears.

He immediately signalled a timeout then turned and instructed goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who thought he had the night off, to replace J.S. Aubin in the net.

Then he lit into his team as we've seldom seen a Leafs coach do in mid-game, somewhat reminiscent of Pat Burns, who just happened to be in the building.

"I didn't like the first two goals on J.S.," Maurice said afterward.

"I didn't think they were bad. I just thought we needed more. He came out to change the flow and to buy me some time to say the things I felt needed to be said."

So, what did he say?

"I don't know if I can say that on television," Mats Sundin said afterward.

"Quite honestly," Maurice said, "at those times, you don't even remember. None of it was printable. Sometimes it doesn't even have to be coherent as long as it's loud enough and profane enough to take the focus away from the moment."

When play resumed, it was a very different Leafs team that emerged, playing a robust physical style typified by Chad Kilger who would score the next two goals to tie the game, setting up a big Toronto third period.

"Tucker went down and pounded one and Kilger went to the net and that's the reason we won the game," Maurice said. "You could feel it on the bench. We scored three after that, and two on the power play. That's what happened. It wasn't pulling goalies or saying the right things."

Tucker and Jeff O'Neill scored in the third period to give Toronto a 5-3 lead before the Lightning made things interesting in the dying moments.

Martin St. Louis' goal with 3:44 left sent a shudder of deja vu through the building, with memories of several blown leads in this losing streak still fresh in the minds of both players and fans.

"The bench in the third was really good," Maurice said. "Every once in a while somebody will say something funny and there were a couple of good lines after (Tampa) made it 5-4. If your team's joking a bit in pressure situations it tells me they're not afraid of it."

Alex Ponikarovsky had opened the scoring in the game but that early prosperity evaporated when Aubin waved at a Nikita Alexeev wrist shot that beat him high on the glove side to tie the score. A few moments later, with Mike Peca serving a boarding penalty, Vincent Lecavalier beat Aubin with a one-timer from the point to put the Lightning up 2-1.

When Brad Richards beat Aubin -- again on the glove side -- just 24 seconds into the second period to put Tampa up 3-1, Maurice blew his stack. On the sequence that Maurice found so offensive, Mats Sundin was beaten cleanly on the faceoff at centre ice by Lecavalier and when the puck was cleared into the Toronto end, little MartinSt. Louis picked Bryan McCabe's pocket behind the net, then fed Richards steaming into the slot.

Richards' snap-shot was on its way back out of the net when Aubin made his first move on it. Aubin took the fall but this was a general team breakdown.

MESSAGE RECEIVED

Maurice's little chat apparently left an impression. We'll take a stab at a quick synopsis of the coach's message: "HIT SOME-(Bleeping)-BODY!" We know this because, well, the Leafs spent a good portion of the rest of the period trying -- and often succeeding -- to put Tampa players on their backsides.

Immediately upon entering the game in relief of Aubin, Raycroft made a couple of spectacular saves to keep it a two-goal game and then his teammates, playing with the coach's fury still fresh in their minds, seemed to find the energy that had been missing.

After Kilger's first goal got the Leafs within one, Peca and Kilger found themselves on a two-man breakaway in the dying seconds of the second period.

ROOM-SERVICE SETUP

Peca sold goalie Johan Holmqvist on the idea he was going to shoot, then delivered a room-service setup to Kilger, who didn't miss.

In the third, Tucker deflected a Sundin shot past Holmqvist to give Toronto the lead and then O'Neill delivered what turned out to be the winner.

It was the first win for the Leafs since Nov. 24 in Washington. And the last earthquake behind the Leafs bench? Unrecorded.


Videos

Photos