Leafs find a way to win

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

BOSTON -- In another year, on another Maple Leafs team, Anton Stralman's own goal midway through the first period of last night's game at the TD Banknorth Garden would have been the beginning of a very ugly end.

When the puck bounced off Stralman's stick and past goaltender Vesa Toskala giving the fired-up Bruins a 2-0 lead, it looked like here-we-go-again time.

Everywhere but on the Leafs bench, however.

By midway through the second period, the Leafs had fought back to a 2-2 tie. And then the hockey gods smiled down on Stralman, handing him the ultimate reversal of fortune.

With momentum having slowly swung to their side, Stralman wired a wrist shot past Tim Thomas at the 10:46 mark of the third and the Leafs were able to skate away with a 4-2 win, just their second victory early in this rebuilding season.

"It's a young team and they are not going to give up and say, 'Oh, here we go,' like they did last year or the year before or the year before," said Wilson, who has worked hard at changing the mentality and attitude of his players.

"This group really enjoys playing with each other. I was really glad that the guys stayed patient and stayed with the game plan."

They did it by executing the lessons that Wilson has been preaching since the season began, erasing a two-goal deficit for the second game in a row.

The tying marker, for example, came off the stick of Nik Antropov, who suddenly is a goal-scoring machine with his fourth of the season and third in the past two games.

But it came from what had been uncharacteristic hard work behind the net by linemate Alexei Ponikarovsky, who had seen his ice time reduced last week, precisely because he wasn't providing that kind of effort.

"(Wilson) keeps telling us to go to the net and good things happen," Antropov said. "Even though we were down 2-0 after the first, we battled back again.

"It showed character and that we can get rewarded for hard work."

It was also nice to avoid a shootout for a change, after all the team was 0-3 in that department. The Leafs are now 2-1-1 on the road with their first victory since the opening-night shocker in Detroit two weeks ago.

"We've been in a lot of games and a lot of shootouts but just to get a win gives us some excitement and some confidence," said defenceman Mike Van Ryn, who scored the first Leafs goal, a wrist shot from the point on the power play 6:17 into the second. "We'll put our hard hats on and try to build from this."

Rather than fold when the Leafs went down 2-0, the Leafs dug in and focused on what gives them the best shot to stay in games -- hard work and stellar defence.

Thanks to some key saves by Toskala, the Leafs held off a mild rally by the Bruins, who were outshot 37-28 in front of a disappointing (and disappointed) crowd of 12,274.

Niklas Hagman, with an empty-netter for his second of the season with three seconds remaining, iced it for the Leafs, who return home for a date with their provincial rival Ottawa Senators tomorrow.

Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring with a nifty deflection past Toskala, his first of the season and first since Oct. 13th last year, days before he suffered a season-ending concussion.

Just 32 seconds later, the Bruins added another on the bizarre goal that left Stalman shaking his head in disgust. Charging back to help Toskala, Stralman inadvertently got his stick on a puck fired to the front of the net by Boston's Blake Wheeler.

"It was nice to get the winner but I wasn't thinking of that at the time," Stralman said. "Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you get unlucky. I had both happen to me."

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REPLAY

PAIN IN THE GLASS

There was a lengthy delay 20 seconds into the second period when Mike Van Ryn was crushed into the boards by Boston's Milan Lucic, shattering the glass.

"I had to go back and changed quickly to get all the glass off my back," Van Ryn said.

While Van Ryn was not injured with the glass shattered, two fans were had cuts on their faces and went to hospital for further care.

FINALLY, A SHOT

The Bruins didn't get a shot on Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala until the 9:44 mark of the first, snapping a stretch of 37:30 in which the Leafs did not allow a shot in regulation time dating back to 12:14 of the second period of Tuesday's game against the Anaheim Ducks.

EARLY RISERS

When Patrice Bergeron scored his first goal of the season at 15:32 of the opening period, the Bruins scored first for the fifth time in seven games this season. Bergeron's goal was his first in more than a year after missing all but 10 games last season due to a severe concussion and broken nose.

STARS SHUT DOWN

Phil Kessel and Marc Savard had scored 11 of the Bruins' 18 goals coming into the game.


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