Long Island long shot

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It was a humiliating 190-foot handshake between friends.

There was Vesa Toskala, squatting on his knees, being mocked by 13,194 gleeful fans at Nassau Coliseum and thousands more who were watching on television, after allowing one of the most embarrassing -- not to mention longest -- goals in the illustrious history of the National Hockey League.

Just what was going on behind the chrome bars of that mask in this, arguably the lowest point in his professional career?

"I was laughing," the cool Finn admitted after the Maple Leafs' improbable come-from-behind 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders last night. "I mean, that was my buddy from San Jose who scored. And he doesn't really score a lot."

Standing in front of a gaggle of reporters, Toskala simply shrugged his shoulders when asked if he would be haunted by the many replays that will be shown over and over again in the coming days, weeks, months, even years.

"Hey, s--t happens. What are you going to do?"

Toskala's buddy in question is Islanders defenceman Rob Davison, his former teammate with the San Jose Sharks. Davison entered the game with two nondescript goals in 186 previous NHL games.

His third, however, was so memorable, it already was on YouTube before the teams had left the ice for the first intermission.

With the host Islanders attempting to kill a penalty, Davidson, standing just in front of his own goal line to the left of goalie Wade Dubielewicz, fired a clearing shot up the gut.

Then it started bouncing.

Over the Isles' blue line. Over centre. Across the Leafs' blue line.

Toskala, seeing the rubber disc was acting screwy, dropped to his knees as it got close. Bad move.

At the last moment, the puck took a weird turn to the left, eluded his catching mitt and hopped into the Toronto net at 13:48 of the opening period.

Let the punchlines begin.

"Ya, I always used to practice shooting long on him," Davidson joked, referring to their days with the Sharks.

Both Toskala and his teammates shook off the Longshot Heard 'Round Long Island. Third-period goals by Kyle Wellwood, Pavel Kubina and Alexei Ponikarovsky gave the Leafs the victory, while Toskala made a game- saving stop on Mike Comrie in the game's final minute.

The win did not allow the Leafs to make up any ground on the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers, who beat the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 to maintain their six-point lead over Toronto for the final post- season slot in the Eastern Conference.

With just eight outings remaining, the Leafs are running out of games in their quest to avoid missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

But playing without Mats Sundin, Nik Antropov and, for much of the game, Carlo Colaiacovo, the Leafs showed heart, along with a sense of humour.

"I guess that puts (Vesa) up there with my overtime goal," laughed defenceman Bryan McCabe, referring to an early season game in Buffalo when he gave the Sabres the victory by scoring into his own net.

Back in 1972, Cliff Fletcher, the new general manager of the expansion Atlanta Flames, watched his team win its first NHL game in this same building over the Islanders.

It's a good bet that Fletcher, now the interim GM of the Leafs, never saw a goal like Davidson's that night.

Or, for that matter, since.


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