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Leafs Rely on Tucker and Pony

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs


by Matthew Iaboni

April 5, 2006

(TORONTO) -- After playing two tough games against the Buffalo Sabres, the Maple Leafs' energy level was noticeably down and it nearly cost the Blue and White a victory. A strong third period rescued the Leafs for a 3-2 win over the Islanders.

Having won three of four the Leafs didn't have the same speed in their passing game or forecheck and that made it easier for the Islanders to get the puck out of the zone and pressure the Leafs.
Darcy Tucker gets mobbed after scoring his second of the game.
(Graig Abel Photography)

Head coach Pat Quinn was not pleased with the way his team played on Wednesday but happy with the win.

"It's kind of a funny sort of game, we didn't have a team game going, we turned the puck over a lot, we played the kind of game that we usually don't win but this time we did," Quinn said. "We had a strong third. We took some poor penalties, maybe it's just the number of games we played."

Darcy Tucker was one Maple Leaf who keeps the fight alive for the playoffs by giving his team a spark not just scoring goals but also taking the body.

"He set some goals for himself this year," Quinn said. "He doesn't have to score 30 to be valuable to our team. The way he plays is more valuable for us... the intangibles."

Tucker is his own harshest critic and he realized that he was getting a little too cute for his own good.

"I haven't been shooting the puck as much and that's not my game and tonight it worked," he said.

Earlier this season, Tucker was on the first line and he played well with Mats Sundin. He's now playing with Kyle Wellwood and Tucker enjoys playing with the youngster.

"We needed a win tonight and I thought Welly (Wellwood) sparked things the way he created things," Tucker said. "He made a nifty little play (on the first goal) and it gave us a big boost."

Despite picking up another big victory, the feisty winger understands that if the Leafs don't keep it going against Boston then it won't mean much.

"It was tough to get the right plays on the break outs and we persevered and it was a big win but it doesn't mean anything if we don't win tomorrow in Boston."

Another bright spot for the Blue and White this season has been the play of Alexei Ponikarovsky who scored the game winning goal and also his 20th of the season - a new career high.

"We're trying hard to make the playoffs, my success is I'm just trying to work hard and stay positive," Ponikarovsky said.

Quinn is happy for the big winger, but he feels that Ponikarovsky can still improve his game with bigger and better things to come, maybe even 30-goal campaigns.

"I think he has to keep striving to do that," Quinn said. "He has the physical tools to do it. He does shoot the puck hard, he's got some nice moves. He's middle-20s now and has some good years in front of him. I think he'll continue to become a better player."
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