Leafs put on fast, furious display

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

OTTAWA -- The action was fast and furious at Scotiabank Place last night, both on and off the ice.

In the first period, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson was spotted in the press box, adding fuel to the rumour that he is trying to pry Nik Antropov from the Leafs.

And, perhaps, Dominic Moore.

By the second period, the talk was all about Jamal Mayers being on the trading block.

By the third, it was reported that the Leafs turned down a trade offer for Ian White.

And, oh yes, there also was a game, though the action on the ice seemed of less consequence than what Leafs GM Brian Burke might do with only three days left before the NHL trade deadline.

Still, the Leafs and the Ottawa Senators -- two teams going nowhere this season -- renewed the Battle of Ontario and it was quite an exciting affair, which generally happens when teams decide to not play defence.

Defenceman Pavel Kubina scored his second of the game 33 seconds into overtime -- the sixth game in a row Toronto played overtime hockey, a franchise record. The Czech took a pass from White at the blueline and snapped a wrist shot that beat Ottawa rookie goaltender Brian Elliott under the blocker for the 4-3 Leafs victory, the club's fourth in a row.

"That stuff (trade rumours) you can't control. But we've been working hard still," said Kubina, while insisting that the Leafs have not given up their playoff hopes. "There are 19 games left and you never know what's going to happen."

The Leafs stormed ahead 2-0 and dominated the listless Senators in the first but folded brutally over the next period and a half, falling behind 3-2 on Daniel Alfredsson's goal at 4:26 of the third. Kubina tied it 10 minutes later, with Jason Spezza in the box for hooking, on a blast from the point that beat Elliott on the blocker side.

PLAYING FOR PRIDE

Technically, the Leafs still are playing for a playoff position. But realistically, they're playing for pride. The also are playing with the realization that Burke will trade anyone of them, with the possible exception of rookie defenceman Luke Schenn, if he can get appropriate draft picks or prospects in return.

The Leaf most rumoured to be on his way out is the team's second-leading scorer, Antropov. There have been reports that Columbus -- a team that hasn't made the post- season in all seven seasons it has been in the league but that is attempting to hold on to a playoff spot in the Western Conference -- is very interested in the big winger.

"There are no worries here," Antropov said of the rumours. "We just win games and we're having fun doing that. If it happens, we'll talk afterwards."

There was some confusion over who had scored Toronto's second goal at 15:28 of the first. TV monitors suggested it was rookie Tim Stapleton, playing in only his second NHL game, but the goal, a rebound in front, was credited to Jason Blake.

Upon further review, it was awarded to Stapleton. The La Grange, Ill., native, who still leads the Marlies in scoring this season, also scored the shootout winner in Toronto's 5-4 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday, but shootout goals do not count as official goals.

"I didn't dream that's how I would score my first," Stapleton said of his goal last night, which certainly won't make the highlight reels.

"But I don't know if I'll ever score again, so you can't be picky about it.

"I told (Blake) to keep it," said Stapleton, when asked about the scoring snafu. "I said I'll try to score a real one next time."

Mayers had put the Leafs up 1-0 on a knuckleball shot that beat Elliott to the glove side. Ryan Shannon made it 2-1 when he scored for Ottawa from in front of the net 29 seconds into the second. Four minutes later, the Senators tied it when Jarkko Ruutu picked up the puck in front from a nifty Spezza pass from behind the net and beat Curtis Joseph.

Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle was much too weak on Ruutu.


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