November 10, 2011
Kessel lifts Leafs past BluesScrivens solid in net for Toronto
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
ST. LOUIS - Here's a piece of news that's pertinent to all in Leafs Nation.
The Maple Leafs managed to make it through a hockey game without making a goaltending change.
What's more, they won another road game, this time registering a 3-2 shootout victory at the Scottrade Center against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
Rookie netminder Ben Scrivens made 37 saves and then stopped Alex Steen, T.J. Oshie and Matt D'Agostini in the shootout.
And coach Ron Wilson summed up the perceived public feelings toward Scrivens, who was great last week against Columbus but then faltered versus Boston, in a way only Wilson can.
"Everybody, you know, they build a statue, they knock it down and piss on it, and now they will be out there building it again," Wilson said. "You have to be reasonable. He is a young kid, if he starts (against Ottawa on Saturday), hopefully he is a little more focused this time."
Phil Kessel, on a forehand deke, beat Jaroslav Halak for the only goal in the shootout.
The Leafs improved to 10-5-1. Their 10th win last season did not come until Dec. 6, in their 26th game.
Defenceman Mike Komisarek was slashed on the right hand late in the third and will go for X-rays, Wilson said.
There's absolutely no way the Leafs would have won had Scrivens not been terrific for much of the night.
The Blues, playing with a lot more energy since the hiring of coach Ken Hitchcock, dominated the final 40 minutes of regulation and it was no surprise when Patrik Berglund jammed the puck into the net with one minute 56 seconds remaining in the third period.
The Leafs were terrible at clearing the zone through the second and third periods, and barely were clinging to a 2-1 lead when Berglund scored.
Scrivens was shaky to start the game and excellent to finish it. In the third period, when Luke Schenn, who mostly had a solid outing, couldn't clear the puck, Scrivens made his best save on Steen. The former Leaf was staring at an open net until Scrivens lunged across the crease and made a stop.
Before that, Scrivens, who was named first star, was sharp to make stops on David Backes and Oshie.
"Any time you are down on one side of the net and the puck is free with their guy open, you can't help but be in desperation mode," Scrivens said of the save on Steen.
"My confidence grew the last couple of days in practice. The good practice (on Wednesday) was the switch for me. I don't think I was as nervous as the Boston game. That's the stuff you learn from. I'm happy with whatever starts I am getting. Beggars can't be choosers."
Wilson said he had not decided whether Scrivens or Jonas Gustavsson would start against the Senators in the annual Hall of Fame game. There's almost no way it can be Gustavsson. Scrivens shouldn't be replaced after a performance such as that.
John-Michael Liles and Kessel scored for the Leafs, who had one goal in their previous seven-plus periods. Tyler Bozak assisted on both goals as Toronto built a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Jason Arnott also scored for the Blues, giving him 16 goals in 39 career games against Toronto.
One positive other than Scrivens was the fact the Leafs scored two power-play goals for only the fifth time in 16 games. Liles is becoming more comfortable with his teammates, and as such is sneaking in the back door with more regularity.
That the win was ugly on the whole didn't matter in the Leafs dressing room.
"It wasn't pretty, but not all of them are," Phaneuf said. "We didn't play the best game ever played, but we won the game.
"That extra point can be big coming down the stretch, and I know that is a long way away, but any point you get early is one that can't be taken away at the end of the year."