Dynamite comeback by Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin (left) celebrates Nik Antropov's game-winning goal against...

Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin (left) celebrates Nik Antropov's game-winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Mark O'Neill)

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Call them the Calamity Kids.

The Maple Leafs have gone from breaking their fans' hearts to merely giving them heart attacks. Hey, it's a good thing. Honest.

It's just that sometimes it doesn't feel like it until the final score pops up on the scoreboard and people can stop reaching for the blood pressure monitor.

Last night they toyed with fate and -- in their second comeback victory in two games -- beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2. You could hear the sigh of relief all the way to Mississauga.

The winner was scored in the third by Nik Antropov, suddenly no longer the fans' favourite team punching bag. On a line with Mats Sundin and Alex Ponikarovsky, they dominated the smaller Lightning. The Leafs had a 24-8 margin in shots through the first 40 minutes, but goalie Marc Denis was superb in net to keep it tied 2-2.

"The third period decided things for us. Nik, Mats and Alex are starting to build some chemistry," coach Paul Maurice said. "Nik actually looks fast now."

The Leafs tied it 2-2 in the second on a goal by Sundin, who hadn't scored in the past seven games, hitting posts, crossbars, and almost every vital body part possessed by opposing netminders. But if there is one team against which this famine was going to turn to feast it would be Tampa.

Sundin has 59 points in 44 games against the Lightning. He tucks into them like dinner at a five-star restaurant. On his goal, he outworked Cory Sarich for the puck, stepped around Vaclav Prospal's check and worked into the slot.

"It was kind of a funny play," Sundin said. "I turned and followed Nik to the net and there was kind of an aisle and I just shot it at the net. I've had so many chances the last couple games; probably better chances than that but it was nice to see it finally go in."

Through a crowd, Sundin snapped a hard shot to the far side, past Denis' glove hand for his 27th of the season.

"I think it builds character but I don't like it," Sundin said of the Leafs constantly having to fight back on the scoreboard. "We were sluggish out of the gate, but we were a confident group in the dressing room. We thought we were the better team."

The Lightning, at the end of season-long, six-game road trip, took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Brad Richards. Chad Kilger tied it before the first ended but Dan Boyle's short-handed goal put Toronto down 2-1 in the second.

"Then, after the goal we give up a three-on-one and you're saying: 'Oh, no, can't we just decline the penalty,' " Maurice said.

But the Sundin line came up big. None too soon, according to Sundin.

"I probably had a better game (Saturday). As long as I'm getting chances, but I am 36 (so) you better, ahh, I'm not too worried about the goals," he said, laughing and letting the thought drift, then adding, "scoring is a big part of my job.

"But, as long as we're winning."

If Sundin has been frustrated, Maurice said "I didn't see it in his play. He keeps it on a pretty even keel. But there's a lot of fire in him ... when we're losing he's always the guy saying 'I've got to do more ... score.' "

Last night Sundin did more. The goal was his 388th as a Maple Leaf, leaving him one behind Darryl Sittler for the all-time team lead. Then, 5:51 into the third he set up the winner. Antropov fed Sundin behind the net and cut to the crease. He took the return, bulled his way in front and then flipped a nifty backhander past Denis' glove.

"We have to use our size to block guys out. It doesn't matter how pretty they are, as long as they go in," Antropov said.

It's the kind of goal this line is going to have to score more of, if the Leafs want to be taken seriously.

And, Sundin knows it.

"Nik and Pony are so big and so strong its really tough for the defence to control us, especially low with the new rules because they can't clutch and grab," Sundin said.

So, it's official. Size does matter. At least in the NHL.

REPORT CARD

B Forwards: Came up with timely goals, none moreso than Nik Antropov's game-winner early in the third.

A Defence: Any time you can hold a team with the likes of Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards to less than 25 shots, it should be considered a successful evening.

B Goaltending: Andrew Raycroft got the win, sure, but the fact he was beaten twice on Tampa's first seven shots left the capacity crowd a bit antsy.


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