March 7, 2006TORONTO (CP) --
The Toronto Maple Leafs breathed new life into their playoff hopes Tuesday night.
Taking advantage of a parade of Canadiens to the penalty box, they ended a five-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory that lifted them into 10th place in the NHL's Eastern Conference and within six points of Montreal and the eighth and last playoff berth.
"We've got 21 games left and a lot of teams can still grab that last spot, including us,'' said general manager John Ferguson.
A loss would have dropped Toronto 10 points back of Montreal, and that would have just about killed their chances of qualifying for post-season play.
|Every Maple Leafs player made a contribution in the win |
(Graig Abel Photography)
"That was a four-point game for us,'' said defenceman Tomas Kaberle, whose goal and three assists also gave him four points. "The rest of the way, every game is going to be like a playoff game, and we're going to have to win most of them to get into the playoffs.''
Toronto was 4-for-11 and Montreal 2-for-5 on power plays.
Mats Sundin scored twice and Kyle Wellwood and Jason Allison once each on power plays.
"It seems like we've been on the other end of that a lot so it's nice to see it go our way,'' said winning goaltender Ed Belfour.
For Montreal, Andre Markov and Chris Higgins scored on power plays and Richard Zednik had an even-strength goal.
Canadiens defenceman Sheldon Souray declined to blame referees Dean Warren and Craig Spada for the disparity in the calls.
"There were a lot of penalties but, when you make it close for the refs to call, they're going to make those calls,'' said Souray. "We didn't do ourselves any favours.''
For a change, the Leafs didn't beat themselves by making mental errors. The work ethic has been a constant, but miscues have dropped them down the standings. This was only their fifth regulation-time win in their last 21 games.
"We did a lot of things a lot better,'' said Sundin, who has remained positive despite all the losing. "I like the feeling we have in the dressing room, even though we're going through a really tough time right now.
"The trading deadline is coming up, and who knows what's going to happen there, but we still have a good atmosphere in the room and we were able to focus (Tuesday) and hopefully we can build on this.''
Ferguson said he hopes to reinforce his lineup before the 3 p.m. ET Thursday trading deadline.
"We're going to try and do some things that can help our team down the stretch and in the future,'' he said.
The loss was the Habs' first in regulation time in 10 games since Feb. 2. Goaltender Cristobal Huet had to feel as if he was a target in a shooting gallery in the second period, when the Canadiens were assessed six consecutive penalties.
"That was a tough game, a tight game,'' said Huet. "I think (our) guys were a little bit tired, and (the Leafs) buried their chances.''
Zednik had a Radek Bonk pass bounce off him and into the Toronto net at 5:07, and Kaberle tied it at 6:45 after Darcy Tucker lifted Craig Rivet's stick to steal the puck and backhand it to him in front of Huet.
Sundin slapped in a high shot from the circle to the right of Huet at 1:35 of the second period for his 800th point as a Leaf while Mike Komisarek sat out a roughing call.
Huet survived a two-minute, two-man Leafs advantage before Wellwood hammered home a slap shot on yet another Toronto power play at 16:06 of the second.
It was even-up time for Warren and Spada now. Aki Berg was assessed a ridiculously cheap interference penalty. The Leafs survived that one but, when Bryan McCabe was nabbed for interference next, Markov converted a cross-crease pass into an open side of the Toronto net with 6-10ths of a second left in the period to make it 3-2.
Komisarek cut Tie Domi with a high stick and was sent off at 5:57 of the third period. Huet had the puck behind his net and slid it directly to Allison for an open-net gift at 6:34, and Sundin duplicated his earlier goal at 7:45.
Higgins shovelled in a rebound at 11:40 with Kaberle in the penalty box. McCabe cross-checked Higgins in the face on the play. At the bench, a towel was used to absorb the blood. There was no call, which 19,540 witnesses could not believe.
Belfour said he hopes he's still a Leaf on Friday.
"I'm not worried about it,'' the 40-year-old goalie said of the approaching trading deadline. "You can't let things get on your nerves and bother you.
"It's part of the game. You have to go out there and just focus on your job and do the best you can.''
He has a no-trade clause in his contract. He wouldn't confirm or deny the club has asked him to waive the clause.
"I don't talk about things like that,'' he said.
Notes: Toronto had a 34-33 shots edge . . . It was the first Sundin-Koivu meeting since they captained their teams in the Sweden-Finland game for gold at the Olympics . . . AHL call-up Ben Ondrus of Sherwood Park, Alta., made his NHL debut in place of C Nik Antropov (shoulder) . . . LW Garth Murray of Regina got the Montreal lineup spot of C Tomas Plekanec, who hurt a shoulder Monday in Philadelphia . . . Reports have surfaced that the Leafs placed RW Mariusz Czerkawski on waivers . . . Toronto 's next game is against the New York Islanders on Long Island on Friday . . . Montreal ends a six-game road trip in Boston on Thursday.