Frattin celebrates birthday in style

Maple Leafs forward Matt Frattin takes a shot against the Lightning at the Air Canada Centre in...

Maple Leafs forward Matt Frattin takes a shot against the Lightning at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Jan. 3, 2012. (TOM SZCZERBOWSKI/US Presswire)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:11 PM ET

TORONTO - One of the best parts of Tuesday night’s 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Maple Leafs was the play of rookie winger Matt Frattin.

The former University of North Dakota standout was mired in a miserable slump heading into yesterday’s game — one point in his last 10 games, which couldn’t have been doing good things for his confidence.

It was one of those droughts which made you wonder whether the kid might be better off being sent down to the minors, where he could perhaps pick up a load of points and regain his confidence.

But Frattin played one of his best games of the season against the Lightning, playing on a line with David Steckel and Darryl Boyce.

He picked up a goal and assist and was plus two. He also drew a holding penalty in the third period by Pavel Kubina which lead to Toronto’s seventh goal by Phil Kessel, and was named one of the game’s stars.

Not a bad way to celebrate your 24th birthday. The Leafs can only hope now that Frattin gets on a big roll.

“I was kind of hoping,” said Frattin, when asked if he felt he would have a big game on his birthday. “I just wanted to play my game and get back to the consistency I try to play with — instead of one good shift and then a couple of bad ones.”

Frattin said his confidence has been fine over the last few games, he just wasn’t getting the bounces.

“It’s always nice to get a couple of bounces,” he said. “For the last five games or so, even a couple of games before the Christmas break, I felt like I was playing good, but just couldn’t get any bounces. It’s good to get a couple of bounces today and just have to carry it into the next game.”

PERFECT PK

The Leafs went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill and a lot of that had to do with the play of Boyce, who was recalled from the Marlies on Dec.20. Boyce, who scored an even-strength goal in the second period, played 3:55 while the Leafs were short-handed, and was the difference on the PK along with Steckel.

A HOCKEY MYSTERY

Leafs Nation seems to want coach Ron Wilson’s scalp. Yet many of these same hockey experts consider Tampa coach Guy Boucher some kind of coaching genius. Which is a mystery. Despite having a team with three legitimate superstars, the Lightning were 24th on the power play heading into Tuesday night’s game at the Air Canada Centre. The Lightning can throw Vincent Lecavalier, Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the PP, yet they have a mediocre 14.7% conversion rate. In a five power-play chances against the Leafs, the Lightning picked up donuts. The Lightning are underachieving in a big way this season, yet when the topic of great coaches comes up, Boucher’s name is always mentioned. Maybe it’s because he knows how to smile for the camera.

SOME GAME RAMBLINGS

Poor Dwayne Roloson. The veteran goaltender, who came in for Mathieu Garon in the second, was given the Bronx cheer throughout the third period every time he made an easy save ... Tampa pest Steve Downie had 20 minutes in penalties in the second period ... There’s no doubt that rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner has the goods to be a very good offensive defenceman, but he’s still a little too hesitant about using his skills — like taking a shot when he has a good chance instead of passing it off.

PRE GAME STUFF

Goaltender James Reimer, who didn’t play last night, received a smattering of applause when he was given Leafs player of the month award prior to the game. You know the Leafs had a rough month of December when Reimer is the best player ... Nice tribute to Wilson’s uncle, former Leaf Johnny Wilson, on the scoreboard during the first period. And nice round of applause ... My boy Steve Simmons said this part way through the first period: “Jones, Purcell and Tyrell. What is it? A Tampa Bay line or an accounting firm?” The answer: A typical second- tier line in the watered-down, 30 team NHL.


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