Leafs continue fight to finish

Leafs' Ben Ondrus and Flames' Warren Peters fight during the 2nd period of Saturday's game in...

Leafs' Ben Ondrus and Flames' Warren Peters fight during the 2nd period of Saturday's game in Toronto. (Mark O'Neill/SUN MEDIA)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

The official scorer giveth and the official scorer taketh away.

At least, that was the deal with Maple Leafs rookie Mikhail Grabovski last night.

In one of the more bizarre scenes around the Air Canada Centre this season, Grabovski proudly stood in front his locker following Toronto's wild 8-6 victory over a tired Calgary Flames team, happily discussing his first NHL hat trick.

But a few minutes later, after the Toronto media had been shuffled out of the Leafs dressing room, it was revealed that, upon further review, Grabovski's second goal, scored at 1:19 of the third, had been awarded to fellow rookie Nikolai Kulemin.

To his credit, the easy-going Grabovski took it all in stride.

"It's okay," the 25-year-old centre said." I'm happy for Nikolai because he's my best friend on the team. He's young (22) and he needs to score too. I have 16 goals and he only has eight."

It's a good thing Grabovski's an athlete and not a statistician. Kulemin actually has 11.

In any event, last night's wild and physical tilt showed yet again that, for a glorified minor-league team going nowhere, the Leafs still are putting up a pretty good fight.

Which is good news for the blue bloods who continue to shell out big bucks for tickets, but bad news for those starving members of Leafs Nation who are hoping the Leafs will tank, drop in the standings, thereby securing a good chance at a high draft pick.

"We still want to win every game and try to keep moving up in the standings as much as we can," said Toronto forward Matt Stajan, who finished the game with two assists. "We've worked our whole lives to make the NHL and play for the Maple Leafs. You're not going to give anything but your best. If you're not doing that you don't deserve to be in this league, no matter what's at stake."

Still, the Leafs lineup as the season unwinds certainly is not going to strike fear in the hearts of many NHL opponents. Half the team coach Ron Wilson dressed last night either are NHL rookies or have spent considerable time in the minors this season.

Playing in their seventh-straight road game, the Flames fought back from a 3-0 deficit to tie it in the first, and from a three-goal deficit late in the third to make it a one-goal game. Eventually, though, the Albertans ran out of gas. Wilson gave the Flames credit for playing hard despite that fact.

LONG TRIP

"It's scary when you look at that many games in row on the road," Wilson said. "If you get off to a good start on a road trip, it can be the best thing. You get off to a bad start, it can be a harrowing experience. But most of the Western Conference teams are very used to that and they know how to handle that."

The victory robbed Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff of his 200th NHL win. The Finn was pulled early in the third period after Kulemin's scored Toronto's sixth, although Kiprusoff's backup, Curtis McElhinney allowed one goal on seven shots.

Alexei Ponikarovsky led the Toronto attack with four assists, while Olli Jokinen picked up a hat trick and two assists for the Flames.

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REPLAY

CONGRATS, ALEX

Alexei Ponikarovsky's assist on Jeff Finger's goal in the first period was his 200th NHL point.

PHILING ANDRE IN

Rookie defenceman Phil Oreskovic scrapped with Calgary's Andre Roy in the first period, his second fight in four games since being called up from the Marlies and his second knockdown. Toronto's Ben Ondrus and Warren Peters of the Flames staged an excellent middleweight bout in the second. Oreskovic got into a pushing push with Cory Sarich in the third.

MILESTONE

Jeff Hamilton's goal in the second marked his first as a Leaf and first in the NHL this season.

SAME OLD MIKE

Calgary coach Mike Keenan pulled goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff after Toronto's scored their seventh goal in the third, putting in Curtis McElhinney.

POINT-GETTERS

Toronto G A P

Alexei Ponikarovsky 0 4 4

Mikhail Grabovski 2 1 3

Jeff Finger 1 2 3

John Mitchell 1 1 2

Luke Schenn 0 2 2

Matt Stajan 0 2 2

Jamal Mayers 1 0 1

Nikolai Kulemin 1 0 1

Jason Blake 1 0 1

Jeff Hamilton 1 0 1

Anton Stralman 0 1 1

Boyd Devereaux 0 1 1

Lee Stempniak 0 1 1

Calgary

Olli Jokinen 3 2 4

Dion Phaneuf 1 2 3

Jarome Iginla 1 2 3

Adrian Aucoin 0 2 2

Curtis Glencross 1 1 1

Miikka Kiprusoff 0 1 1

NEXT UP

Tuesday -- 7:30 p.m.; Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning; TSN, AM 640


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