After all that was said and written about this team over the past couple of days, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally looked like the gritty, hard-nosed team we saw last year driving deep into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the effort carried over just the first and second periods.
However they did keep their composure and pull out the 4-3 OT win over the Los Angeles Kings at Air Canada Centre, Tuesday night.
After yet another line shuffle the Leafs came out firing on all cylinders and managed three goals in the first frame. They then seemed to gradually slip back into the troubles they've had and teetered ever so close to letting this one slip away.
| Tom Fitzgerald and the Leafs look to be returning to the physical game. |
Graig Abel Photography
But it was clear Mats Sundin was not prepared to let that happen and willed the Blue Shirts to a win with his 11th career overtime goal.
"The main thing is our captain stepped up, led the way and got us the win today," said Bryan McCabe.
The line shake up was an interesting storyline as Pat Quinn continues to tinker and search for a winning combination between all four of his front threesomes.
Sundin skated with Mikael Renberg and Darcy Tucker; Alex Mogliny with Reichel and call-up Josh Holden, Alyn McCauley was again at centre between Tom Fitzgerald and Jonas Hoglund, while Travis Green opened the game with Tie Domi and Shayne Corson.
Whether it be the new combinations or the tough road trip, the Maple Leafs' desire for victories finally was evident as they consistently played full contact hockey and, as a team, spent a total of just four minutes in the penalty box.
"There are things that winners do (on the ice)," said Quinn after the win. "And sometimes your emotions cloud up the situation and you get away from those. Then fear takes over and that's when you really get into trouble."
Renberg was once again a big bright spot for the Leafs as he collected two assists on goals by Hoglund and Sundin. Renberg is more than aware of the team's fragility right now and understood what to take from the victory.
"In sports, losing confidence is such a big, big thing and we need to keep winning these tight one-goal games," said Renberg. "If we can learn anything from tonight, it's that we can't back off."
The Leafs also played responsible hockey for the first time in a long while and the little mistakes weren't so glaring and costly.
"I thought all our 'D' played well," said Sundin. "We all did a better job in the important parts of the game."
So maybe the Leafs don't need to cut their losses and trade the second, third and fourth lines to the first bidder as some would suggest. And you might expect some members of this Leafs squad to sleep a little better tonight knowing that not only did they put together a solid performance, but they did it at home.