Leafs earn second consecutive divisional Win
With the two man advantage, Kaberle orchestrated the play;back and forth with McCabe, then down low to Wellwood to free up McCabe, Kyle quickly gives back to Tomas who re-directs over to McCabe who rifled the puck into the top-right corner.
The Habs answered back in the first with Guy Latendresse finding Koivu all alone in front for an easy tap-in, after Rivet wound up with the puck and found the heralded rookie out wide to the right. The Leafs were running around on this one, and really seemed upset that the shut-down trio was scored upon. It was understandable as Peca was stickless and the Defense never recovered its assignments and shape.
With a goal apiece after one period of play, the second became a parade to the box for the Habs. Montreal's PK was outstanding in response, and even pressured the Leafs a man down. But it would be Stajan who would put the Leafs ahead for good. With Kaberle on the right side and Bell filling Tomas' usual position, the two D worked the puck across the blue line and fired a puck at net with Stajan standing in front. Rather than wait for the rebound, #14 stopped the puck with his skate and quickly fired around a surprised Aebischer. Shortly thereafter, with the Leafs enjoying another powerplay, Kaberle fired one through the wickets on the fourth or fifth shot in rapid succession by the team. The Leafs struck a third time in the middle frame, as Antropov gained the zone with two Habs back and fired a wicked wrister past Patrick Roy's former apprentice. Coach Carboneau wasted little time after going down 4-1, installing Huet in net.
The Leafs, ahead by three, came out roaring in the third, which was a change of pace. Rather than get passive, the team took the play to the Habs and kept the puck away from their net for a majority of the period, except when down a man for only the second and third times.
This game came down to penalties and pace. The Habs had the latter early, but suffered from the former. The Leafs lacked the latter for the first half of the first period, but from then out-competed Montreal, while remaining out of the box for the most part. The Leafs in the top-10 for least PIMs accrued, while having played two, three or four more games than the rest of the top-10. What surprises me is that the usually heady Habs are in the bottow half of the league when it comes to being penalized. Not a good time for Montreal to abandon a defining characteristic, though of course it is not by design. Head coach Carboneau said it best;
We created those (penalties)...We turned the puck over too many times in our own zone. For 15 games now, every game, we have way more penalties than the teams on the other side. It's either us that have to adjust, or the other teams are way better than we are.And when you can't stay out of the penalty box, it isn't wise to fuel your opponents' desire to beat you. Sheldon "running my mouth" Souray, dissed Matty Stajan, commenting;
They just outworked us. We started losing battles to guys like Matt Stajan, guys that you wouldn't expect that would to out-compete us, but they didGet used to it, Sheldon. And hopefully Stajan remembers this quote come December 2.
The Leafs' minor players did well in their limited opportunities. Suglobov drew a penalty with his stick handling and skating, got the puck deep, found the smart team play, and finished the game even, which is the first time he has managed to do so since earlier this season in the horrible break-down against the Devils in the swamp. Best game of the year by far from Sugar. Pohl spent a lot of time on the power play. He didn't convert, but he should if given a continued look with a man up. His instincts around the net are exceptional.
Mikael Tellqvist stirred up a little trouble on Sunday, when he stated he was ready to back-up Aubin, but the doctors never gave him the ok. Obviously, Racine was used to back-up Aubin so that JFJ has more time to decide what to do with his three NHL goaltenders. If he keeps this up, he'll be talking his way out of town, sooner rather than later, which might be his plan. Just don't screw it up for the team, ok?
And congrats to Alex Steen, who is also a new father along with Pavel Kubina. Apparently, he and his fiancee have yet to decide upon a name though they have been pondering it for most of the pregnancy. I have a suggestion for a middle name. ____ Bear Steen. It's going to be my first boy's middle name. I think. UPDATE: Kingston Steen