Headed into tonights game, the Leafs were coming off a embarassing loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Losing 6-2 in Buffalo, then the drama between Phil Kessel and Ron Wilson, many Leaf fans were scared of what was going to happen in Toronto.
With a penalty filled first period, six by the Leafs, one by the Thrashers. Evander Kane wasted little time putting the Thrashers on the board, just 2:39 into the first period. The second goal scored by the Thrashers was big Dustin Byfuglien, who hadn’t recorded a point in over ten games, was a booming shot from the point on the Thrashers fifth minor of the period.
Phil Kessel, Mikhail Grabovski, and Tyler Bozak all failed to scored on breakaway chances, Ondrej Pavelec came up big on a few different chances in the first.
The second period went way more in Toronto’s favor, converting on good passing plays, and playing much more disciplined.
It was the captain, Dion Phanuef, lighting the lamp first for the Leafs on a hard and accurate point drive that found it’s way past the Thrashers goaltender Pavelec. It was Phanuef’s first goal at the Air Canada Centre since being acquired by Calgary more than a year ago.
Next it was Grabovski stealing a goal from Kessel on the powerplay to put the Leafs up 3-2. The cross ice pass was headed for Kessel, right on the tape, but Grabovski poked it and slid it home past Pavelec, almost in what seemed to be slow motion.
Next it was Nik Antropov put the Thrashers back on top with a quick snap shot goal, assisted by a surprising player, Anthony Stewart. Stewart, a former first round pick is finally starting to show some promise with his 13 goals and 17 assists this season.
Clarke ‘King’ MacArthur tied the game again for the Leafs with under five to play in the second period. Tomas Kaberle registered his second assist on the night for the Leafs.
A funny note about Kaberle, is though you’ll see a million trade proposals or rumors about him (like the old but refreshed rumor that he’s wanted by Boston), but it’s funny to see how our always indecisive fans are now keen on re-signing the veteran and keeping him here, unless of course, you get a stud prospect or high first. Life pays well to be a Buds fan.
Going into the third, it would be Nikolai Kulemin who would score on a play that shouldn’t have happened. Dustin Byfuglien who got the monkey off his back after breaking his pointless streak would make a massive mistake that would pay off for the Leafs. He is skating out of the defensive zone and gives a soft back hand would be pass up the boards, until Kulemin slides in, steals it and is one-on-one with Pavelec. A little dipsy-dangle move and he buries it to give the Leafs the lead.
It would be the third line pitching in, again, as Colby Armstrong and Joey Crabb do some hard work on the boards, Army gets it out front to Crabb, who fed it over to a wide open Timmy Brent who buries it and gives the Leafs a two goal lead.
Andrew Ladd would answer, but it would be as close as the Thrashers would get as the Leafs would go onto win 5-4.
Obviously we’ve all read about what happened this week with Ron Wilson and Phil Kessel. The wrongly used words by Kessel set up the media for the rumor that Phil wanted out of Toronto which Kessel would shoot down, BUT, it did open our eyes to the apparent lack of communication with Kessel and Wilson.
Think that would cause a riff between the two in game? Not even. On the contrary, Wilson did something he never really does, puts Kessel out in the last minute and a half of the game where the Leafs led by one goal, a big defensive role.
What does Kessel do? He races down the rink to beat out an icing call on a missed chance at the empty net. That alone could have been a game changer, as Steve Dangle talks about in Leafs Fan Reactions – Game 53, that could have put the puck at the other end of the rink and gave the Thrashers another chance at tying the game. It is something that wont show up on the score sheet, but it’s a big aspect in the win.
Up next, the Leafs take on the Islanders tonight in Long Island. It’s a must win for the Leafs as they sit nine points back of the eight placed Carolina Hurricanes.
Topics: Andrew Ladd, Anthony Stewart, Atlanta Thashers, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Clarke MacArthur, Colby Armstrong, Dion Phanuef, Dj Ryan Real, Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane, Joey Crabb, Mikhail Grabovski, New York Islanders, Nik Antropov, Ondrej Pavelec, Phil Kessel, Ron Wilson, Steve Dangle, Tim Brent, Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Mapleleafs, Tyler Bozak