TORONTO - It took two Leafs dreaming of Olympic gold to bring Toronto back from the brink of another disappointing loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.
Third period goals by Team Sweden captain Mats Sundin and Czech Republic rearguard Tomas Kaberle highlighted a 5-4 come-from-behind victory on Monday night, which gave the Leafs something to build on coming out of the Olympic break.
Kaberle notched two goals, both on wrist shots, to raise his total to eight on the year while Sundin picked up a goal and two assists as the Leafs even the season series with Atlanta. Backup netminder Corey Schwab got the win keeping Toronto in the game and making key saves in the dying minutes.
| Mats Sundin started Toronto's comeback. |
Graig Abel Photography
The Leafs were hoping to avoid another letdown against the troublesome Thrashers but a sleepy first period gave Atlanta the momentum they were looking for. Neutral zone turnovers cost the blue and white dearly, resulting in a 3-1 deficit after just 20 minutes.
"We didn't come out and play as good of a first period as we wanted," Schwab said understating the issue. "But we were playing against a team we knew we could come back on."
Schwab let in goals on four of his first 11 shots but most were quality scoring chances that could have been avoided with a little help from his teammates.
"I felt bad for Corey Schwab," Sundin said. "He hasn't played in a month and we didn't show up for him."
Super rookies Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk were terrorizing the Leafs yet again, combining for three points. In the three previous meetings between the teams this season Heatley had three goals and two helpers while Kovalchuk three markers and an assist. Making those totals more impressive is the fact Toronto held the whole team off the score sheet in Atlanta a little less than two weeks ago.
"They are playing good hockey and they can shoot the one-timers," Kaberle said of the duo. "We talked about them before the game."
Apparently the chat fell on deaf ears but Toronto got back on track in the second tying things up with quick goals from Gary Roberts and Jonas Hoglund. The Leafs showed a lot more hustle but a defensive-zone lapse cost them the lead before the end of two. Tony Hrkac let a wrister go from point-blank range while the Leafs' blueliners struggled to get control.
That set the stage for Sundin's heroics, which are becoming more and more common. As are his inspirational between-periods speeches.
"'Let's just play them the way we did the last time we played them'," Schwab said recounting his captain's words after the second. "'We're down by a goal, we can come back against these guys.' When he stands up and says that everybody's like 'OK lets do it'."
That kind of stuff means a lot to teammates especially when Sundin goes out and delivers. The respect factor then starts to compound, resulting in a team that believes they always have chance.
If Sundin can be that kind of leader for Team Sweden he will have a fancy new piece of jewelry to show off when he gets back from Salt Lake. NOTES:
All the Leafs' injured players skated with the team on Monday morning. Dmitry Yushkevich participated in the non-contact workout and his status will be determined after the break. Alex Mogilny skated but isn't quite healthy enough for contact either. Cory Cross will be ready to go after the break. The team didn't want to risk him re-injuring his groin against the Thrashers ... Shayne Corson, Darcy Tucker and Travis Green lined up together for the second straight game.