Puck stops here for Leafs

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Jonas Gustavsson's fearless goaltending seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the Maple Leafs.

The most pleasant sound for coach Ron Wilson on Saturday wasn't the muffled whump of 35 pucks hitting Gustavsson's pads, but almost 40 Detroit shots being blocked or forced wide of their target.

To Wilson, that means his players are getting the message they must support whoever is in net if they are going to dig themselves out of a deep October hole.

"We weren't getting into the shooting lanes to stop pucks before," admitted defenceman Francois Beauchemin, who led the Leafs with four blocks in a 5-1 upset of the Red Wings. His total included two with Gustavsson caught out of the net.

Wilson had half-seriously questioned his team's willingness to endure pain on their goalie's behalf. They have blocked 221 shots this season compared to 300 or so by conference leaders Pittsburgh and Colorado, to name two teams.

"The players didn't want to get hit with the puck I guess," said Wilson, when asked why they weren't making the same sacrifice in October. "Getting in a shooting lane is a mental thing. You know you're going to get hit."

Tomas Kaberle and Mike Komisarek had three blocks each, before Komisarek left midway through the game with a lower-body injury. It's not considered serious.

'BEST GAME'

"This was by far the best game our defence has played," Wilson said. "You look how many times (Detroit) missed the net. It's usually because you're trying to shoot around a defenceman or forward."

But Gustavsson was very good on his own, his quick pads needed early when the Leafs were careless.

"There's a different feel on the bench when you make a mistake and the goalie bails you out," said Wilson, who saw little of that with Vesa Toskala and Joey MacDonald between the pipes. "You appreciate that and dig in even more. Then you can take a few chances (with the puck)."

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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