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Leafs Do The Little Things In Win

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
(TORONTO) -- Children can go to school with radiant smiles.

Dentists across the GTA will note a substantial drop in the amount of freezing they consume.

Taxmen, for a day at least, won’t be sticky about receipts.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won. All is right with the world.

The Leafs beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 last night in a rambling affair that saw the Leafs surrender the lead three times and doggedly gain it back.

It was only the second time in month, the Leafs have delivered a win for the victory-parched denizens of Air Canada Centre.

The win brought an end to an ugly five-game losing string and abated, for one night at least, the scorn of fans and media upset by the team’s downturn.

For the Leafs, there wasn’t much not to like. They competed on every shift, got goals from support players and never allowed a talented Hurricanes team to grab the game by the throat. They outshot the visitors 36-25 and aside from a bit of silliness at the end when Pavel Kubina needlessly iced the puck with 3.3 seconds left, the Leafs hung on when it mattered most.

“It’s the little things,” said Alexei Ponikarovsky, one of the evening’s goalscorers. “We did them all night long tonight. Putting the puck out of the zone put it in deep in their zone. Yes, we had a few turnovers but everybody knew we couldn’t turn the puck over and for the most part we didn’t. That’s the way we have to be. We have to be accountable.”

The first period was virtually free of scoring chances but it wasn’t a wasted effort. The Hurricanes play a brutal trap. The Leafs spent the frame putting the puck out of harm’s way. The Hurricanes, built to exploit turnovers, had to go a lot further. Even without a goal, the Leafs made their point.

“That’s supposed to be our game the whole season,” said Ian White, another goalscorer on the night. Don’t take any unnecessary chances. We can exploit the other team’s mistakes. We stuck to the plan. It’s not exciting hockey but in the end it will get you wins."

The teams struck for five goals in the second period. Tomas Kaberle ripped a shot past Carolina goalie Michael Leighton, Chad Kilger lifted a loose puck for his eighth and Matt Stajan mucked a loose puck into the net for his 10th.

Sergei Samsonov and Erik Cole scored for the Hurricanes.

Two minutes into the third, Andrew Ladd beat Vesa Toskala from outside the circle and the game was tied again at 3-3.

The Leafs regained the lead when Jason Blake appeared to beat Cam Ward, in for Leighton five minutes into the period. Blake, strong up to that point, was electric afterward. The goal was later given to Ponikarovsky. No matter.

Four minutes later, Ponikarovsky hacked down a puckhandler. The puck rolled to White at the Carolina blueline and his shot eluded Ward. That made it 5-3.

The 'Canes Rod Brind’Amour tipped home a shot with 8.6 seconds left just because the Maple Leafs don’t like to do things the easy way.

The last minute saw Toskala, five-foot-10 in heels jabbing at Brind’Amour who in his spare time bench presses cars.

“Are you nuts?” it was put to Toskala. “Don’t you know what that guy can bench press?”

“Never mind,” said Toskala, allowing himself a bit of a swagger in the winner’s circle. “He doesn’t know what I can bench press either.”
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