TORONTO - The Maple Leafs exorcised some major demons with their 6-5 shootout win on Thursday night.
Toronto had lost seven of their last nine at the Air Canada Centre prior to the win over the St. Louis Blues, and four straight at home. More than that, the Blues had not lost against the Leafs in their last 10 games, going 8-0-2 before Thursday’s game.
Third-line centre Darryl Boyce continues to make a case for himself to remain with the Leafs more or less on a permanent basis.
The Summerside, P.E.I., native picked up his third point in four games since being called up from the Toronto Marlies and could have had a goal if not for a nice save by Jaroslav Halak in the first period. He also prevented a St. Louis goal early in the third when he wrapped up St. Louis centre Jay McClement in front of the Toronto net. McClement had an open net. Boyce ended the game a plus-2.
HELLO TOMAS, ANYONE THERE?
The ACC game operations people play that Brian Burke video — with the Leafs general manager babbling on about the Toronto Marlies — at least 85 times a game (ok, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration). Ok Brian, we believe you. The defence have to be strong, tough and smart. And the forwards have to skate back and think two passes ahead. We get it. As for the part about “Every game being a tryout”, how do you explain the play of Tomas Kaberle on Thursday night? He seemed to be in his own little world. He and defence partner Luke Schenn were caught napping on the Blues’ fifth goal in the third and again late in the game, allowing an Alex Steen breakaway. He’s got to play better ... if the Leafs are going to be able to trade his a-- ... Kaberle and Schenn ended up being a minus-1 in the game, but it could have been worse if not for some key saves by their goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.
BOY OH BOYES
Mississauga native Brad Boyes, the subject of trade rumours to Toronto earlier this season, certainly looked good in front of the Leafs management with two assists in the third. The rumour was Boyes and a prospect for Leafs forwards John Mitchell and Tyler Bozak. Bozak also played very well, scoring the winning goal in the shootout.
GRABO GRABBING FOR THE BRASS RING
First-line centre Mikhail Grabovski continued his incredibly hot play, scoring his 10th goal in the past 13 games, and his 15th of the season, second on the team to Phil Kessel. He easily could have had a couple more, if not for a big save by Halak in the first and Ty Conklin in the second. He finished with a career high eight shots.
THE MONSTER JUST GOOD ENOUGH
Gustavsson started for the first time in three games and his teammates left him hanging out to dry in the first period with both St. Louis goals in that frame the result of brutal giveaways in Toronto’s zone, first by Francois Beauchemin (Alex Steen) and then by Nikolai Kulemin (David Backes). The Blues’ fourth goal, in the third, a shot from the point by Eric Brewer, was also the result of a giveaway, though the Swede should have made the save on that one. But Gustavsson settled down nicely and made some major saves to guide the Leafs to the win, including a big save on Steen late in the game and a save on Patrik Berglund on the final attempt in the shootout.
“That was important for him, that he dug in and got the job done,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of Gustavsson.
WILD AND WEIRD
This hasn’t happened all that often in the NHL. When St. Louis coach Davis Payne pulled Halak out of the game for Conklin in the second, there were two Alaskans in the game, Conklin and Joey Crabb of the Leafs. Conklin was actually born in Phoenix, but raised in Anchorage ... Tough night for fourth line winger Fredrik Sjostrom who seemed to hurt his knee in the first period when his skate got caught a rut in the ice as he tried to hit a St. Louis defenceman, though he returned after a few minutes. He then got nailed into the boards in the second.