Aw, shoot, you had to ask

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Tomas Kaberle swears he does not hear the collective pleas of "Shooooooooooooooot!" from the fans in the stands every time he gets the puck at the point on the power play.

Maybe he should listen more closely.

Firing the puck in the direction of the goalie might be un-Kaberle-like on most nights, but his performance in the Maple Leafs' 5-2 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday showed just how effective he can be when he actually sends the puck to the net.

In the span of three minutes in the second period, Kaberle ripped in a goal from the top of the faceoff circle, then added an assist when his point shot was tipped in by rookie Nikolai Kulemin.

Those two goals were part of a suddenly sizzling Leafs power play that has registered seven goals in the past three games, an effective performance from a unit that is quarterbacked by Kaberle.

The logical question becomes: Why, oh why, does he not shoot the puck more if it works?

"Hearing that gets a little old," said Kaberle, whose Leafs take on all-world goalie Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks tonight at GM Place. "I get asked about that every year. You get a little tired of it.

"When a shot is not there, why take it? Why should I shoot it into someone's shin pads. You have to be aware of the shooting lanes and, if they are not there, you have to find the open man.

"On (Thursday) the shooting lanes were open and I took advantage."

Kaberle, for the record, has taken 27 shots thus far this season, which ranks him 12th on the team. For a guy who is gobbling up an average of 25 minutes per game, that total should be much higher.

Another reason the power play has been clicking of late is centre Matt Stajan, who has rebounded from his highly publicized benching earlier in the season to lead the Leafs in scoring with 16 points.

Taking over from former captain Mats Sundin on a line with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov, Stajan arguably is playing the best hockey of his young career. His three helpers in the second period against the Oilers tied a franchise record for most assists in a period.

Just don't try comparing him with Sundin.

"I don't think about that at all," he said. "We are totally different players. Mats is 6-foot-5, after all.

"I'm my own player. I'm just doing what got me here."


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