TORONTO - The Toronto Maple Leafs can take some solace in their four-game winning streak but the team will have to improve their play with a lead if they want that winning feeling to continue.
The squad has been scoring goals almost at will -thanks to Alex Mogilny and Mats Sundin-but the third period defence has been an issue.
In four games against the St. Louis Blues, Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers, Toronto has allowed five third-period goals making those games closer than they should have been. In their defence, the Leafs have potted six markers in the final period over that same span but the fact remains, Toronto needed their offence to shut teams down rather than their defence.
The problem with that is, you can't always score at will. Sometimes goaltenders just aren't going to allow that to happen, so holding a lead becomes even more important.
Coach/GM Pat Quinn wants his team to develop better defensive habits and that should be no surprise but even Mogilny wants his new team to play better with the lead. Coming from the Devils with a Stanley Cup ring on his hand, he knows what it takes to win in the spring.
"We can not allow that to happen," Mogilny said following the Rangers' third-period outburst last Saturday. "That is unacceptable."
Sundin shared those sentiments and was equally disappointed Thursday night when the Leafs needed OT to get past the Blues, despite a 3-1 second-period lead. Quinn showed his disappointment with a disgusted, yet relieved look seconds after the Sundin scored his ninth career OT winner.
Even with the defensive follies, Toronto is finding ways to win and that is a good sign. The six wins in their past seven outings have all been against teams above .500. The winning streak is a team-best since March 2000, when they put five wins together.
Most of the credit can be given to the power play. Mogilny's second goal against the Blues was marked the fourth game in a row the Leafs have scored with the advantage. Ever since Mogilny, Sundin and Roberts have been united on the first unit, they have been impressive.
Looking ahead to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, the Leafs would like to continue their offensive form and tighten up on the defensive end. The Habs come to Air Canada Centre unbeaten in four games and riding a big home victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Former Leafs captain Doug Gilmour returns to the face the Leafs in his fourth different jersey (Devils, Sabres, Hawks, and Canadiens) since being traded in 1997. The veteran was taking heat heading into the week's action for his season-long scoring drought but back-to-back tallies against the Atlanta Thrashers and Flyers have silenced the critics.
The Leafs must get pucks at netminder Jose Theodore, who has registered a .197 goal-against average this season. Toronto can't overlook the young Canadiens squad because they are hungry and looking to prove people wrong.
NOTES: ... The Leafs defenceman Dmitry Yushkevich was struck on his left cheek with a shot from the point Thursday night. He needed stitches to close the wound but returned after just a few minutes. ... Joseph won his league-high 17th game. ... Toronto has outscored its opponents 26-15 the last seven games. ... After going winless in five straight, the Canadiens have rebounded and are undefeated in their last four (2-0-2). ... The Canadiens are 7-1-1 when Oleg Petrov registers at least one point. ... Sheldon Souray and Yanic Perrault both extended their point-scoring streaks to three games in the Canadiens win over Philly.