Leafs breathing a little easier

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

As he passed reporters on the press box elevator, Maple Leafs CEO Richard Peddie grinned and motioned to wipe his brow.

But the beads of sweat had to be real this time as he and general manager John Ferguson descended, knowing both would've had a rougher trip down to the dressing room had their team not eked out a 5-4 over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

There were plenty of happy endings last night, the seven-game losing streak, Darcy Tucker pointing to his visiting father Dale in the platinums after scoring, Andrew Raycroft getting second star after starting on the bench and Chad Kilger finding his way back to the scoresheet.

The weight room music was turned up for the first time since Nov. 20.

"I don't get to see my parents that often, and he has been in town (from Alberta) a couple of days and seen what the media has been saying," Tucker said. "So it's nice to turn things around. We got down and showed we still have the mental edge to get back."

Raycroft, who had born much of the fans' wrath in the slump, began the evening worried about losing his starter's job to Jean-Sebastien Aubin. But he wound up putting himself back in position to go Friday in Carolina, stopping 17 of 18 shots in relief.

"It helped that I've played a lot and not sat two weeks," he said. "But we were playing well and I knew it wasn't going to turn into an 8-1 game (for Tampa), which helps going out there. It's nice to let in a bad one (Marty St. Louis's side door power-play goal at 16:16) and for a change, not have it cost us the game."

Kilger, stuck on four goals the past 14 games, never thought he'd end the night in search of his first National Hockey League hat trick, so was not bothered in the least that he rang the post as hard as the bells of Notre Dame with a drive late in the third .

"I've had six two-goal games, but just can't seem to close it out," he said laughing. "But I'm just glad we won today."

Centre Michael Peca was relieved his pep talks with younger players finally paid off.

"We all talk that talk in a slump, but if you're not getting the results, it's frustrating," Peca said. "But we had a great game in a lot of respects and the smiles are back on our faces for sure."

Maurice stole everyone's thunder with his second-period bench tirade, down3-1.

"Paul can be the happiest guy in the world and can still sound x-rated," Peca said. "But he just recognized a good opportunity to settle us down, regardless of the score."


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