By Clayton Hansler
-- Oshawa, ON
Whether in the playoff stretch or on the driveway, everyone plays to win. In a spirited contest against the Chicago Blackhawks rookie squad, winning is precisely what the Maple Leafs did (4-2).
In an end-to-end rush that had all 3,759 standing, Jake Gardiner
earned the game winner as he snapped the disc blocker side on Mac Carruth. Gardiner scored his second of the game with 26 seconds remaining to earn the game's First Star.Jamie Devane
opened the scoring for the young Maple Leafs team late in the opening frame as he tucked the puck high over a sprawling netminder from a sharp angle. Devane's goal came after he brought the fans to their feet earlier in the period with an extended bout with Andrew Shaw in front of the Chicago net.
"I picked it up behind the net and tried to walk out front and see if there's anyone available, the goalie was still down so I backhanded it in," Devane said modestly.
The Blackhawks would tie it up in the second period following a Toronto goaltending change that would bring 2011 draft pick Garret Sparks
between the pipes. Former Leafs' prospect Chris DiDomenico, traded to Chicago to acquire Kris Versteeg, would snap the puck up and over Sparks to finish off an odd man rush.
The middle stanza would see another heavyweight fight as Chicago's Rob Flick unloaded on Garrett Clarke.
Down by a goal entering the third, Kenny Ryan
would ignite the Maple Leaf team when he would thread the needle by firing a shot short side, high glove to deadlock the game at two.
"Short-side, roof; that's an NHL goal" remarked Dallas Eakins with a smirk.
Gardiner's two goals late in the third would then clinch the victory for the Leafs who wore their road white jerseys on the ice at GM Centre.
"I thought both teams played well," said the bench boss for the Leafs rookie tournament. "I thought we found some chemistry with the lines… and the guys started to feed off each other. It doesn't take much to get going, sometimes it's a hit, sometimes it's just a couple of big passes and a little bit of speed, but suddenly all four of our lines were really going and it doesn't take much to get the other team on their heels."
The Maple Leafs will reconvene tomorrow for a 7:00 p.m. start against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Oshawa, after a morning practice. The evening tilt will be broadcast on Rogers TV as well as streamed live on mapleleafs.com on a 30 minute delay.