November 27, 2003
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs know they are well protected with Ed Belfour in goal. They still have to guard against passive play when they grab a lead.
The Maple Leafs scored twice in the first period, then watched as Belfour made the lead stand up in a 3-1 victory Thursday night over the Atlanta Thrashers.
Belfour made 31 saves, allowing only Ilya Kovalchuk's NHL-leading 17th goal in the closing minutes.
"It's a great comfort to know you've got a goalie like that to bail you out when you make mistakes," said Owen Nolan, who scored two goals.
Kovalchuk scored with 1:26 left to bring the Thrashers within 2-1. Only 27 seconds later, Nolan scored his second goal to seal Toronto's third straight win -- matching a season-best streak.
"We got that lead, and your fear is for a few shifts you start to sit back and play that protection stuff," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "You can't do that. You've got to keep your feet to the pedal."
|Owen Nolan is playing with the aggressive style the Maple Leafs acquired him for. |
(Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI)
Belfour had an injury scare when he was sent sprawling to the ice following a collision with Atlanta's Serge Aubin with about five minutes left in the game. Belfour took a shot to his left knee, but remained in. Aubin drew penalties for charging and roughing.
"I don't usually get hit out there," Belfour said. "It's becoming more and more part of the game. The referees are having to look after us."
Darcy Tucker had a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs.
Atlanta, which had its franchise-best four-game winning streak snapped against Ottawa on Tuesday night, dropped its second straight at home.
In Toronto's 2-1 win over Vancouver on Monday, Belfour passed Glenn Hall for fifth place on the NHL's career victory list. Belfour has won 409 games, 14 fewer than Tony Esposito, who is in fourth place.
"It's definitely an honor to be part of a group like that," Belfour said. "I'm just trying to focus on one win at a time."
Atlanta's comeback hopes were hurt four minutes into the third period when Marc Savard was ejected after he bit Tucker's glove during a scuffle. Savard was given a penalty for attempting to injure.
"Things like that happen in a game, I guess," Tucker said. "I looked at the ref and he said he didn't see it, but the linesman called it."
Said Atlanta coach Bob Hartley: "Instead of fighting back (from the 2-0 deficit) like we usually do, we just lost our composure and focus. We made it impossible for us to come back."
Toronto took a 2-0 lead with two goals in a span of 2:33 in the first period. The first was set up by Bryan Marchment, whose deflection robbed Kovalchuk during a breakaway.
After Marchment's stop, Nolan gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at 12:25. Tucker pushed the lead to 2-0 with his sixth goal of the season.
With 2:49 left in the first period, Atlanta defenseman Ivan Majesky was knocked out of the game by a sprained left knee. Majesky collided with Nolan near the left wall, and Majesky's leg was caught in an awkward position.
There was no word on how many games Majesky will miss.
"It doesn't look good," Hartley said. Notes
: Toronto G Trevor Kidd was in uniform, making his return from offseason shoulder surgery. Toronto has three goalies, but Mikael Tellqvist could be sent to the minors. ... Toronto C Joe Nieuwendyk sat out for the 11th time in 12 games because of back spasms. He might play Saturday at Ottawa. ... Atlanta was without D Yannick Tremblay (bruised foot), who has not played since Nov. 15. ... The Thrashers debuted their new blue jerseys.