Leafs beat Flames to snap losing streak, keep faint playoff hopes alive

Tuesday, 04.01.2014 / 9:55 PM The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Knowing his Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't win six games in a row in one night, coach Randy Carlyle tried to zero in on getting the first one.

It wasn't pretty, but the Leafs did just that, beating the Calgary Flames 3-2 Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre to snap a streak of eight straight losses in regulation.

These two points were the first Toronto picked up since beating Los Angeles on March 13. Now at 82 points, the Leafs moved ahead of the Washington Capitals, who lost to the Dallas Stars, but remained behind the Detroit Red Wings (84) and Columbus Blue Jackets (83) in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.

The Leafs (37-32-8) figure to have to run the table in their final five games — against the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators — and get help in order to make the playoffs after such a debilitating losing streak.

Beating the Flames was a start. Jay McClement, Dave Bolland and David Clarkson scored for the Leafs, who got 20 saves from goaltender Jonathan Bernier in his first victory since March 10.

Matt Stajan and Kris Russell scored for Calgary (31-38-7), which lost for the third time in four games. Like Bernier, Karri Ramo made 20 saves.

Flames players knew getting the first goal could be huge on a night the Leafs were feeling the pressure and a restless crowd of 19,482 would get on the home team quickly. But McClement ensured that wouldn't happen.

With the Calgary defence napping, Leafs defenceman Cody Franson skated into the corner and found McClement streaking toward the net. The fourth-line centre deflected the puck in to score his fourth goal of the season 50 seconds into the second period.

Ramo made two big saves on a shift two minutes later, robbing Nazem Kadri with his glove and then Phil Kessel with his left pad on a two-on-one rush.

Not long after, it looked like the Flames had it tied up at 6:53 of the second when Curtis Glencross deflected a point shot past Bernier. It went to video review, and the situation room confirmed Glencross hit the puck with a high stick.

The announcement of no goal brought one of the biggest cheers of the night.

These two teams slogged through much of the rest of the period until a hole in the Leafs' defence allowed the Flames to tie it. Calgary defenceman T.J. Brodie, who was beaten by McClement on his goal, sprung Stajan for a breakaway.

Stajan, who played five full seasons and parts of two others with Toronto from 2003 to 2010, beat Bernier at 16:55 for his third goal in his past six games and 13th this year.

As the clock ran out at the second intermission, there weren't even boos, just silence as the horn sounded.

The Leafs brought some energy back into Air Canada Centre in the third when Bolland scored 2:16 in. Defenceman Morgan Rielly led the rush and fed it to Bolland, who missed the net but managed to bank the puck in off Brodie's skate.

Then Clarkson added another spark by scoring on a breakaway at the 5:47 mark of the third. It was just his fifth goal of the season and first point of any kind in 17 games.

That two-goal lead was short-lived, as Russell got plenty of room in the right faceoff circle and snapped one in at 7:24 of the third.

But the Leafs managed to hold on to get a couple of much-needed points.

NOTES — Paul Ranger dressed as the Leafs' seventh defenceman in his first game since suffering a neck injury against Tampa Bay on March 19. Forwards Colton Orr and Jerry D'Amigo were scratched. ... Kessel played despite a bruised right foot and took a puck to that foot a couple of times against Calgary. ... Bryce Van Brabant made his NHL debut for the Flames, becoming the 10th Calgary player to do that this season.

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