EDMONTON -- The best way for Jason Blake to get out of the doghouse is with his play, not his mouth.
Last night, he finally seemed to figure that out for himself.
For the first time all season, Blake was a bleepin' pest, getting on the scoresheet and in the faces of the opposition to propel the Maple Leafs past the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 at Rexall Place.
It was, in fact, the way coach Ron Wilson used to see Blake play with the New York Islanders, performing like the guy with the type of abrasive style that, truth be told, matches his personality.
Let's face it, Blake was peeved at sitting out Tuesday night in Calgary. In his own word, he was "embarrassed."
He should have been. Not about being a healthy scratch, but because his play at times this season was exactly that -- embarrassing.
Despite the veteran winger's complaints from the Calgary game, Wilson held no grudges. In fact, he put Blake on the ice to start the game. Sixty minutes later, Blake had notched a pair of third-period assists, undercut Oilers defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky with a controversial hit that landed him an interference penalty, and had a running feud with Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky all night.
Just the type of spirit Wilson wanted to see.
"I'm not a massage therapist," Wilson said. "Sometimes you have to take a sledge hammer and pound guys between the ears.
"Yes, Blakey played a very good game. Hey, part of my job is to light a fire under his butt. As I said the other day, he has got to play with piss and vinegar."
Blake did exactly that.
"The coach tried to turn me around," Blake said. "It's no secret it was embarrassing to sit in the stands the other night, then get asked about it the next day."
As a result, Blake was fired up about being back in the lineup last night. It showed.
"All day long, I was thinking about getting under people's skins," he said. "That's when I am the most effective.
"I've said before that I have the utmost respect for (Wilson). I've played for him before. He is challenging me to be the best."
Wilson used the same tactic earlier in the season when he banished Matt Stajan to the press box. Since returning to the lineup, Stajan has responded by being one of the Leafs best forwards, displaying that once again last night by tying a team record with three assists in a period.
"Obviously, when you sit out it sends a message," Stajan said. "It's a tough pill to swallow. It's bad enough when you are put on the fourth line and your playing time goes down. But when you don't even play, that's even worse.
"I'm playing with a lot of confidence right now."
Stajan noted the parallels between Blake's situation and the one he was in earlier in the season.
"Blakey was great out there," Stajan said.
So was the Leafs power play, a unit that clicked three times last night and now has seven goals in its past three games.
Mikhail Grabovski scored for the Leafs. Grabovski is now on a six-game points streak, registering seven goals and three assists over that span.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence," Wilson said. "Every time he steps onto the ice, he feels like he has the ability to make something happen. And he's not a defensive liability out there."
The hardest collision of the day occurred during the morning skate when Oilers coach Craig MacTavish fell backward and took a hard tumble.
"It hurt," MacTavish said. "That was as hard as I've gone down in a while. I had to go armadillo."
CRUSHING BLOW II
Hardest hit of the game came very early when Leafs' Dominic Moore -- who was following his pass instead of watching Zach Stortini.
The Oilers tough guy levelled Moore with a clean but powerful hit.
The Oilers went more than 12 minutes without a shot, going back to the 15-minute mark of the second period.
When they finally did, Ethan Moreau took a couple of hacks before beating Vesa Toskala with the Oilers' second goal midway through the second period.
GRAPES OF WRATH
The capacity crowd at Rexall Place gave Don Cherry a standing ovation when he was introduced during a TV break midway through the second period.
To no one's surprise, coach Ron Wilson was one of the few people in the building who didn't clap.