Nikolai Kulemin can’t help but keep impressing Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson.
“Kulie has been one of our better forwards,” Wilson said. “He does not get many points, but he forechecks. Does a great job on the penalty kill. And he made a great play on the winning goal.”
Kulemin has just six goals and seven assists in 39 games, but without his hustle last night, the Leafs might have lost.
After the puck bounced over the stick of Panthers rookie defenceman Jason Garrison at the Leafs blue line in the second period, Kulemin raced Garrison down the ice and beat the latter to the puck deep in the Florida zone. Kulemin gained control, spun around in front of the net and took a shot on goalie Tomas Vokoun. The save was made, and just as Garrison arrived at the front of the net to check Ponikarovsky, the Leafs forward beat Vokoun. None of it would have happened without Kulemin's hustle.
“Coach wants us to play hard and I try to do that,” Kulemin said. “It’s easy for me. I understand more English.”