Leafs get the last laugh

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Luke Schenn hit the scoreboard for the first time, Mike Van Ryn hit the boards with a scary thud and Vesa Toskala finally hit the win column again.

Mikhail Grabovski? He didn't hit anything.

So much for all the hype.

As the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens prepared to do battle at the Bell Centre last night, this town was abuzz at the prospect of a possible scrap between Grabovski and fellow Belarussian Sergei Kotstitsyn, two players who hold an emotional grudge against each other.

During the pre-game warmup, a number of fans held up posters that you would have found pinned up in post offices in the wild west that said: "Wanted: Mikhail Grabovski."

Maybe Habs fans should have wanted a victory more. They didn't get it on this night.

While the anticipated bout between Grabovski and Kostitsyn never materialized, the underdog Leafs turned in one of their most impressive performances of the season en route to a 5-2 victory over the host Canadiens.

But it may have come with a price.

Defenceman Mike Van Ryn, who suffered a concussion against these same Habs after being crushed into the boards by Tom Kostopoulos on Nov. 8, left the game in the second period with what the team referred to as a left leg injury.

The injury occurred when Van Ryn was nudged into the boards from behind by Max Pacioretty just three minutes into the second period. Pacioretty received a charging minor on the play.

"He's going to be out a while," coach Ron Wilson said, adding that he thought Pacioretty should have received a five-minute major for hitting from behind.

Van Ryn has missed 30 games this season because of injury, including a pair of concussions.

Schenn, meanwhile, registered his first NHL goal at 14:37 of the opening period, a bad-angle shot that somehow found its way through Canadiens goalie Carey Price.

Schenn didn't care how it went in. His smile seemed to stretch all the way to his hometown of Saskatoon as he high-fived his teammates on the bench after the goal.

WEAK GOALS

Price was not even supposed to start the game. Jaroslav Halak originally was pencilled in, but had to be scratched when he arrived at the Bell Centre feeling ill.

It was not Price's finest game.

Far from it.

Both the Schenn goal and the first of Jason Blake's two third-period goals were weak.

At the other end, Toskala played like a man who had something to prove.

Maybe he did.

Toskala took a lot of heat last week from management. Not only did GM Brian Burke criticize the veteran goaltender for his poor numbers, coach Ron Wilson followed that up by suggesting Toskala's practice habits left something to be desired.

But on this night, Toskala was almost unflappable, especially in the second period when Montreal outshot the Leafs 15-5.

"Vesa was outstanding and gave us a chance to win," Blake said. "It was a great team win."

After Schenn opened the scoring, Matt D'Agostini tied the game at 1-1 just 25 seconds into the second period. That was as close as the Canadiens would get.

Nikolai Kulemin put the Leafs ahead for good two minutes later. And when Blake scored twice in the third, the Leafs had a comfortable 4-1 lead.

Kostopoulos narrowed the gap to 4-2 late in the game and Jeff Finger rounded out the scoring for the Leafs.

The Habs did get a shot in at Grabovski when tough guy Georges Laraque, who earlier in the week described Grabovski and Kostitsyn as "midgets," flattened the Toronto player.

Grabovski, to his credit, skated peacefully away while Laraque was led to the penalty box.

Grabovski and his teammates had the last laugh.


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