Leafs spirited, but sloppy

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

The hits just kept on coming for the Maple Leafs last night at the Air Canada Centre. Unfortunately, so did the penalties.

The much trumpeted feistiness attached to an off-season bulk up came with a price in a 4-3 overtime loss to their arch-rival Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs scored a pair of power-play goals, including Glen Metropolit's clever tip-in with 4:10 left in regulation. That allowed Josh Gorges to stun the opening-night crowd of 19,617 just 13 seconds before the game would have gone to a shootout.

While the pummelling and the standing up for each other was admirable, the costly Leafs penalties were the loudest thud on this much-anticipated curtain-raiser to the season.

"It's a team mentality," said defenceman Mike Komisarek, who was in the box for both Habs' power-play goals, part of his 15 penalty minutes in all. "We don't want teams to come in here and think it's going to be an easy place to play."

As Leafs centre Matt Stajan, whose two-goal effort was ruined by the late lapse, pointed out: "There are good penalties and bad ones." Especially, he could have added, for a team that had the worst penalty kill in the league a year ago.

Komisarek found himself on both sides of that sword.

Moments before he was penalized on Metropolit's big goal, he had pummelled Travis Moen, retribution for the Habs forward steamrolling Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala.

The Leafs had the man advantage leading to Stajan's second goal and given the way the Leafs had carried the play, it looked like it would stand up as the game-winner.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson wasn't bothered by Komisarek's transgressions, suggesting the statement was at least as important as the lost point.

"Mike was setting a tone he wants to carry through the rest of the season and that is ringing the bell," Wilson said. "We need more of our defence to respond aggressively like Mike did."

That tone was set in other ways, with a pair of spirited first-period scraps, including one between Leafs' new heavyweight Colton Orr and the Habs' Georges Laraque before the game was two minutes old.

The Leafs dominated the Habs, outshooting them 46-27, that overtime shouldn't have been in the equation.

If there was a surprise, then, it was in some sloppy defensive play, the prime backbone of general manager Brian Burke's rebuild.

The other big free-agent acquisition, Francois Beauchemin, was teamed with second-year man Luke Schenn and both struggled on Habs goals by Brian Gionta and Moen. Both were minus-2 on the night, though Beauchemin logged a workhorse game-high 27 minutes and 42 seconds.

"It's all about how you communicate with each other," said Schenn, who was caught flat-footed on the winner when Mike Cammalleri breezed by him before Gorges banged home the winner. "We still have to figure out where he's going to be and where he wants me."

Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the other Toronto goal, tying the game at 1-1 at the 14:27 mark of the first, after a hustling Nik Hagman stole the puck behind the Montreal net.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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