Beating Thomas huge for Leafs

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:29 AM ET

Dion Phaneuf and the injured Maple Leafs didn’t know which was more entertaining on Saturday, the last minute of regulation or the fight that broke out simultaneously between a rival Leaf and Bruin fan near the Toronto bench.

“Wow, there’s excitement in the building tonight,” Phaneuf said standing in his pressbox perch.

Indeed, there were 40 Toronto shots, 67 in the whole game, almost 50 hits, a fight, a goaltending duel initiated by Tim Thomas and a little poetic justice when Phil Kessel finally did something meaningful against his old team. And the 19,483 at the Air Canada Centre were far too distracted to start up another Ron Wilson chant.

“It’s important for us to show support to the coaching staff, they’ve been awesome for us this year,” Leafs goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said of his embattled coach. “They are supportive of what we do and it’s important we show them respect and respond.

“This win will hopefully help us get us out of our slump and send us on the road (to tough houses in Washington and Pittsburgh) knowing we can beat some good teams.”

Few clubs are getting past NHL save percentage leader Thomas with two points, but the relentless Leafs did it, first with a tying goal at 19:18 of the third by Kris Versteeg. Last-minute goals and one-goal losses have killed the Leafs the past few years, but this break, a wide shot by Tomas Kaberle, worked in their favour.

The Leafs also had power plays late in regulation and briefly in overtime. But Thomas somehow made a glove save on Francois Beauchemin in the extra frame, that’s going to be a highlight of his DVD Vezina campaign.

“I was pretty tired by that time,” Thomas said. “I just know that I’m just trying to follow the puck wherever it goes. I didn’t have time to get my whole body over there. I was diving and I was able to pick up the puck and follow it all the way into my glove.

“We’re doing the best we could to get out of there with a 2-1 win and kill off that power play in the third. Of course you’re not happy when they tie it up, but I still thought we were going to win that game.”

Better luck

With luck going so badly against the Leafs these days, Giguere probably wasn’t thinking he’d get involved in a rare shootout win. But he stopped David Krejci, while Michael Ryder hit the post. Ryder had to wait a couple of minutes to shoot because video review was needed to confirm Kessel’s goal and Wilson thought the delay might have worked in Toronto’s favour.

“As far as we’re concerned, this is a prime example of us not letting up,” Giguere said. “We could have just buried our head tonight (after Boston scored first) and not competed. But you never know what can happen in this game.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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