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Leafs Collapse Late Against Blackhawks

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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On Wendel Clark night at Air Canada Centre, Clark’s former team rallied from a 3-0 lead for an unexpected victory.

Problem was, it was the Chicago Blackhawks, Clark’s team for a paltry 13 games in 2000, who did the winning.

It was 5-4 Blackhawks over the Leafs last night in overtime. The Leafs, who have made a habit of falling behind early and then roaring back, reversed the script last night.

The club is now winless in three games and has just one overtime win in five contests.

The Leafs pushed ahead on goals from Pavel Kubina, Mats Stajan and Dominic Moore. But despite the leftover buzz from the Clark ceremony, they had already begun to spring leaks.

A too-many-men on the ice penalty paved the way for Patrick Sharp’s 11thgoal of the year. Sharp scored again a little more than three minutes later before Alexei Ponikarovsky’s shot nestled in Khabibulin’s pads and then squirted over the goal line to restore the two-goal lead.

From the bench, Leafs coach Ron Wilson could see the heavens darkening.

“We rarely got beyond the red line. We had a ton of turnovers. They just kept coming and coming and coming. The outcome was inevitable.”

The Blackhawks outshot the Maple Leafs 15-9 in the final period.

The Leafs could do nothing to break the Chicago forecheck. Wilson says the answer is there for anyone who watched.

“We got a 3-0 lead on good puck support. They weren’t even in the game. A few of these long bomb passes got intercepted and you lose focus.”

Patrick Kane scored his 11th early in the third period to narrow things and then Ben Eager slipped by Anton Stralman to tap in the tying goal with 7:30 left.

Dave Bolland scored the winner when he took a pass from defenceman Duncan Keith, and then put Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala on the ice and shoveled the puck past him 49 seconds into the extra period.

“We would like that third period back” shrugged Stajan. “What can you say? Kudos to them. We know that on our bench. Thankfully we came out with a point.”

“We have to win with a 4-2 lead going into the third,” said Ponikarovsky. “We just have to have those games.”

Wilson was also displeased about the lack of a penalty call in the first period when Eager appeared to hit Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski from behind into the boards. The hit was reminiscent of the hit that knocked defenceman Mike Van Ryn out of the lineup for a month.

“Somebody’s coming at you and you’re spinning to make the play,” Wilson said. “I guess what they (officials) want is people to bail and duck.”

The Leafs lost defenceman Johan Frogren after eight shifts with an arm injury. Wilson said there would be more information on Sunday.

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