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Coyotes Comeback to Haunt Leafs

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) -- Curtis Joseph got the last laugh after all.

A game that pitted star Maple Leaf goalies of past and present saw Joseph settle down after a shaky start in his first game back in Toronto since leaving four years ago. Joseph, who was cheered by Leaf fans when his name was announced for the starting lineup, stopped 25 shots as his Phoenix Coyotes rallied with four unanswered goals to stun the Leafs 4-3 Saturday night.

"Yes, any time you win it's a good thing but certainly there was more emotion here tonight,'' the 38-year-old Joseph said in a euphoric visitors' dressing room. "I had a lot of friends and family that left me messages today. I bought about a dozen tickets.

"You have to sort that out and make sure you're ready to play.''

Ladislav Nagy and Fredrik Sjostrom scored 13 seconds apart early in the third period to cap the comeback for Wayne Gretzky's Coyotes.

"To come back like we did, we all know it was on Hockey Night In Canada, and with everything else with Wayne and Cujo coming back here, it was a big game for us,'' said captain Shane Doan, who was the best player on either team and had two assists.

"We don't get a lot of attention down in Phoenix so when you get some you try to make the best of it.''

Paul Mara and Geoff Sanderson also scored for the Coyotes (22-21-2), who have won back-to-back games after snapping a four-game losing streak with Thursday's 2-1 win at Buffalo.

"I think we had some complacency in our game (during the four-game losing streak),'' said Gretzky. "And the reality is that we're not going to win a lot of games if we don't play to win 2-1 or 3-2. When you start to have some success and maybe you start believing in something that you're not, and you get away from doing good things and good habits. And I think we got away from that a little bit.''

Jason Allison, Carlo Colaiacovo and Tomas Kaberle scored for the Leafs (24-17-3), who have dropped three of four games and head out Sunday night for a four-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Colorado.

"It was 3-0, we thought it was going to be a cake walk, and we started playing like it,'' said an irate Leafs head coach Pat Quinn.

"It's lousy to lose like that.''

And so, what was supposed to be a day off Sunday will now feature a practice before the Leafs head out of town.

Ed Belfour, who signed in Toronto a day after Joseph bolted for Detroit in the first week of July 2002, made 24 saves.

"I thought he made some big saves in the first period against us,'' said Gretzky.

Nagy completed the Coyotes' three-goal comeback after slamming home a rebound off the back boards into a near-empty net 4:02 into the third period. Sjostrom then gave Phoenix its first lead of the game at 4:15, slipping a rebound past Belfour after being left unchecked by Colaiacovo at the side of the net.

"It was a great comeback,'' said Joseph. "One of our problems before was not going to the net. We practised that every day for about two weeks. That's how you get opportunities and Freddie Sjostrom got the winning goal by going to the net.''

The back-to-back goals silenced a crowd of 19,520, a regular-season record in the seven-year history of the Air Canada Centre. The silence was replaced by boos late in the game as the Leafs failed to muster much of an attack in their attempt to tie the game.

The Coyotes got back in the game with power-play goals 16 seconds apart in the second period, Mara's point blast beating a screened Belfour at 6:21 and Sanderson's backhand rebound beating the sprawled Leafs goalie to cut Toronto's lead to 3-2.

"Those two power-play goals certainly changed the game,'' said Quinn.

The Leafs jumped out to a 3-0 lead on three power-play goals in the first period, Allison finding the top corner on a wrist shot from the slot at 9:28, Colaiacovo with a nice pinch and backhand tip to the top corner over Joseph at 13:42 and Kaberle's blistering shot from the point finding the five-hole at 19:24.

"I really felt we had a pretty good first period despite the score,'' said Gretzky.

The Coyotes took five minor penalties in the first period and coach Wayne Gretzky was not impressed, gesturing wildly and yelling at the top of his lung towards referees Bill McCreary and Dan O'Halloran as the period ended.

Colaiacovo is beginning to get known for some big hits and he laid a good one on Mike Comrie early in the second period, hammering the Coyotes centre into the sideboards with a clean but thunderous check. That ignited a brief melee.

Notes: The Leafs play seven of their next 10 games on the road ... The world's most famous hockey father, Walter Gretzky, made the trek from nearby Brantford, Ont., to see his son coach. He got a nice applause from the Air Canada Centre crowd when he was shown on the big screen ... Star Toronto defenceman Bryan McCabe missed his second straight game with a groin injury. Centre Eric Lindros (wrist) remains out, forward Darcy Tucker (ribs) ... Out for the Coyotes were forwards Mike LeClerc (knee), Dave Scatchard (groin) and defenceman Derek Morris (foot). Healthy scratches were centre Petr Nedved, who is on the trade block, and defenceman Sean O'Donnell.

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