Toskala finally gets shootout victory

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

NEWARK, N.J. -- This time, Vesa Toskala had a plan. And finally, with a little help from teammate and fellow Finn Niklas Hagman, the Maple Leafs are shootout winners.

After struggling in shootouts to the point that coach Ron Wilson yanked the goalie from one earlier in the season, Toskala stood tall last night.

And when Hagman beat Martin Brodeur at the other end, the Leafs had reason for a rare shootout celebration.

"I've been practising a lot and I've changed a little thing," said Toskala, who improved his career record in shootouts to 3-9 and 1-2 for this season.

After losing their first three shootout encounters -- including one in which Toskala was replaced by Curtis Joseph -- the Leafs have worked hard on their technique on and off the ice.

Wilson said his staff provided Toskala with some video evidence of what he might do better.

"He's got a game plan on the shooter now," Wilson said.

At the other end of the ice, the Leafs saw some flashy work from Hagman, who fired a backhand past Brodeur who came into the game with a 1.96 goals against average.

"It's something I practised during the week on Vesa," Hagman said. "I thought I would try it tonight."

You can bet the virtuoso performance was given rave reviews by teammates.

"It was one of the best penalty shots I've ever seen," said Matt Stajan, who had a pair of goals and an assist as the Leafs had their finest offensive output of the season.

After Hagman's heroics, all that was left was for Toskala to do his part, which he did by forcing Jamie Langenbrunner to shoot wide to end the game.


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