Leafs get big comeback win

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

Back in the day, it was not uncommon for Bryan McCabe to show an offensive flair when he was a member of the Maple Leafs.

But the Leafs didn’t win much then, and McCabe's two goals last night didn’t help the Florida Panthers win either.

Toronto overcame an early 2-0 Panthers lead provided by McCabe and won for just the second time in seven games, beating Florida 3-2 at the Air Canada Centre.

It was the 21st time this season the Leafs have fallen behind 2-0, but only the sixth time they have at least tied the game 2-2.

“I don’t think it is a comfortable feeling,” said Alexei Ponikarovsky, who scored the winner. “It just brings more urgency to the game. Everybody realized right away we were down and it was a huge game. We had to come back.”

Thank netminder Jonas Gustavsson for the victory, just the Leafs’ eighth on home ice. Gustavsson did what good goalies do, saving his teammates’ bacon after more than a few defensive breakdowns. Toronto players gave the puck away 16 times, and Gustavsson was named the first star after stopping 29 shots.

Gustavsson made a giant save five minutes into the third when he got a pad on a Michael Frolik attempt. The scoring chance came thanks to a Jeff Finger giveaway. Gustavsson, without his stick, later made a sharp glove save on a drive from Dennis Seidenberg.

“We needed our goalie to have a great game,” coach Ron Wilson said. “Hopefully everybody can play a little better (tonight in Philadelphia). Jonas did not get discouraged (by the two McCabe scores) and he buckled down after that. We found a way to get the job done.”

Lee Stempniak and Tomas Kaberle, who helped partner Luke Schenn have one of his better games of the season, also scored for Toronto.

Wilson juggled the lines, putting rookie Viktor Stalberg on the top unit with Matt Stajan and Phil Kessel. Nik Hagman was dropped to play with Jamal Mayers and Colton Orr, while Rickard Wallin centred Ponikarovsky and Nikolai Kulemin. John Mitchell, back after missing 20 games with a knee injury, was between Jason Blake and Stempniak.

“I don’t mind when I have to (juggle),” Wilson said. “But I would just as soon have a team where you roll lines all the time and not have to worry about kicking people in the rear end. We have to work hard to get offence. There is nobody like Joe Thornton to lay pucks out for people.”

Ponikarovsky got the deciding goal at 16:51 of the second after Kulemin beat Panthers defenceman Jason Garrison to a loose puck and got a shot on Tomas Vokoun. Ponikarovsky used his backhand to bury the rebound.

McCabe was booed each time he touched the puck by many of the 18,984 in attendance and did his best to ram it down the collective throat of Leafs Nation. But he was not a big threat after scoring twice in the opening nine minutes.

“At least he didn’t get a hat trick,” Gustavsson said. “That’s a pretty good shot.”


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