STATS | SCORESHEET
By Mike Ball
October 31, 2005
(TORONTO) -- After Saturday's jarring 8-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators, Halloween 2005 was shaping up to be an even scarier affair for Leafs fans than most.
But alas, the Leafs were looking to rebound against the visiting Florida Panthers at Air Canada Centre on Monday night
A ghost from the Leafs past began the night haunting his former mates.
Some sort of possession may have been afoot as Bryan McCabe - by far the Leafs most consistent defender and one of the steadiest backliners in the NHL this season -- had a sloppy giveaway in the opening moments in front of Ed Belfour.
Belfour couldn't recover quickly enough and the ghost of Maple Leafs past was Gary Roberts as it only took the Panther 26 seconds to score in the building he'd spent the last four seasons haunting opponents of the Blue & White.
"He's (Roberts) always tough in front of the net and always scrambling and chopping. So you try and do whatever you can to get him off his game, you know give a shot in the ribs, whatever," laughed Belfour after the game.
The Eagle though wasn't in the mood to hand out candy to anyone in a white shirt Monday night as he'd go on to turn away the next 31 Florida shots to seal the 2-1 Maple Leafs win before 19,143 fans at ACC.
"We looked scared to lose and kind of played a little too conservative," said Pat Quinn. "It wasn't an easy or pretty victory, but one we can certainly build off."
The most pressure Belfour saw was on a late penalty kill situation in the waning moments of the third after Alexei Ponikarovsky - a hero moments earlier for scoring the go-ahead goal - was sent to the box for a hooking violation. It took one fine diving save and a dandy kick save behind a screen to get the Leafs through the two minutes with the one-goal lead intact.
The ghouls really came out after the Leafs killed off the penalty and everyone on the ice paired off before 14 minutes of penalties were handed out, eight of them to the visitors.
The Halloween season is full of frights and illusions, but now Leafs fans just need to break out the ouija board and decipher whether the fright the Senators sent Leafs Nation Saturday night warranted all the uproar or it was little more than a trick to set you up for Monday night's treat.
Mats On the Mend
Monday, the Leafs also announced that Mats Sundin was cleared to begin skating with the team.
"He has been cleared to practice with the team and he'll be helpful there," said Quinn. "Mats is a confident guy and speaking to him before the exam, he didn't think it'd be too long before he was back in shape and ready to go."
"But we'll leave the final decision to Mats and the training staff. He's been one of those guys who tends to heal up fast. His mental framework is that he wants to get moving along."
The Leafs get back on the ice Thursday when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, but Quinn suggested it would be a little further into the future before Sundin sees game action.