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TORONTO (CP) - Put the Toronto Maple Leafs right up there among the power-play powers of the NHL.
Give 'em an extra man and watch the goals go in.
Ken Klee's power-play blast with 15.8 seconds left in overtime gave the Leafs their fourth straight win, 5-4 over the Carolina Hurricanes, on Thursday night.
The Leafs now have scored 16 times on 56 power-play chances -- a handsome 28.5 per cent success rate. Few other teams have capitalized so well with the extra skater in this new NHL that is intent on abolishing interference and obstruction.
|Eric Lindros scored his sixth of the season Thursday. More Photos |
(Graig Abel Photography)
When Carolina's Eric Staal was penalized for high-sticking Jason Allison three minutes into overtime, Toronto moved in for the kill. Bryan McCabe slapped a shot off a post. Seconds later, Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour got a breakaway but fanned on his shot at Ed Belfour.
"I just tried to stay back and stay patient,'' Belfour said afterwards. "I got lucky and it worked out.''
The Leafs stormed back and Klee slapped a drive from the circle to the left of Cam Ward and through the goalie's legs to end it.
"We were looking for one of us to have a good lane to bomb the puck,'' Klee said of working with McCabe at the points on the winning play.
With nobody checking him, he was able to glide in closer than he anticipated to get his first goal of the year.
"We're on the ladies' tee there,'' he said. "We were just looking to pound it.''
Ward said he couldn't have played it differently.
"I thought I had my pads sealed and it went right through me,'' said the 'Canes rookie. "It would have been nice to get to the shootout.''
It's such shots by defencemen that have been padding the Leafs' power-play stats. Coach Pat Quinn caught on weeks ago that, with the larger offensive zones, defenders are giving blue-line shooters more space.
"Our guys have been pretty hot with those shots,'' said Quinn. "Most teams are dropping off the points to cover down low so we're getting -- and other teams are getting -- better point opportunities to score goals.''
Darcy Tucker, Alex Steen, Matt Stajan and Eric Lindros also scored for the Leafs, 4-1-2.
It was Belfour's 438th win, which gave him sole possession of third place on the all-time list ahead of the late Jacques Plante.
"It's an honour to play the game this long and an honour to be in the company of those great names,'' said Belfour.
Oleg Tverdovsky, Brind'Amour, Erik Cole and Cory Stillman scored for the Hurricanes, 3-3-0, who rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the third period. Staal had three assists.
The Hurricanes outshot the Leafs 32-23, including 15-7 in the third period.
"It could easily have gone the other way,'' said Stajan. "We're just lucky our power-play came through again.''
Carolina was 1-for-6 and Toronto 1-for-5 -- a poor night for the Leafs with a man advantage.
The game was a Class A showcase of how scoring has been boosted across the league, and both teams cashed in.
On the game's opening goal, Tucker got a clear break when Tverdovsky fell and lost control of the puck near the boards at his own blue-line. Tucker dashed to the top of the circle to the right of Ward and slapped the puck into the far top corner of the net for his fourth goal at 8:43.
Steen, playing on a new Kid Line with fellow-rookie Kyle Wellwood and Stajan, deflected in a McCabe shot at 11:53 for his third goal.
"He was our best forward, without question,'' Quinn said of Steen.
Tverdovsky replied at 12:45 when he cruised into the middle of the Toronto end to get a pass from Staal, who was deep in the zone. Tverdovsky's quick high shot gave him his first NHL goal since Jan. 15, 2003.
Brind'Amour tied it with his fourth of the season at 8:08 of the second period. Wade Belak, off for slashing, winced as the Carolina captain's slapper found a top corner of the net.
Stajan put Toronto up 3-2 with a short-handed gem at 16:49. Ward sent a pass towards Tverdovsky near the Carolina blue-line and the puck slid past the Ukrainian. Stajan picked it off, sped past Tverdovsky to get a breakaway, and skated close to Ward before lifting the puck under the cross bar for his second goal of the season.
"I was pretty fortunate to get a giveaway by their goalie to take advantage of,'' said Stajan.
He was being too modest. He's playing with a newfound flare, and he showed with the finesse he used to score the big goal that he could be a star in this league.
Lindros made it 4-2 with his sixth goal at 4:59 of the third period, beating Ward with a long shot through traffic.
Cole replied with his third of the season at 7:33, skating around Tomas Kaberle and dragging the puck on his backhand into an open side of the net with Belfour out of position after misjudging what Cole would do.
Stillman tied it 4-4 with his second of the season at 17:32. His shot caromed off McCabe and past Belfour.
"We didn't skate that well in the first period,'' said Cole. "We kind of stood around.
"We picked up the pace in the second and the third periods. We got down two goals but we battled back to tie it. Hopefully, that's a sign of good things to come.''
Notes: Toronto's next game is at home Saturday against Philadelphia (CBC, 7 p.m. ET). It will be Pat Quinn's 500th game as Leafs coach ... McCabe logged a game-high 30 minutes five seconds ice time ... Tie Domi got only 9:29 ice time ... C Nik Antropov, who'd missed practices with an unspecified injury, did not play ... Carolina D Bret Hedican was whacked in the head during a scrum in a corner in the first period and packed it in for the night as a precaution.