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Leafs Win Just Ducky

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) -- Special teams and a special backup goalie, Mikael Tellqvist, lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs out of their December funk.

Toronto was 2-for-6 and Anaheim 0-for-8 on power plays, and that difference resulted in a 3-2 victory over the Mighty Ducks.

Kyle Wellwood, Tomas Kaberle and Alexander Steen scored for Toronto while Rob Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne replied for Anaheim.

Toronto had lost three straight and four of its previous five games, and an unplugged power play was a big reason for the slump. They got it going against the Mighty Ducks, and the Leafs' penalty killing was exceptional, too.

"The penalty killers really sacrificed their bodies for us,'' said Tellqvist. "That was huge for us.''

That lone win in the previous five games was with Tellqvist in goal, and the agile Swede got back in for this one after Ed Belfour booked off with what the club described as "lower body soreness'' earlier in the day.

"We probably could have won all four of them,'' Tellqvist said of the recent losses. "We lost by one goal every time, so it was nice to get this one-goal win.''

Wellwood opened the scoring at 8:57 thanks to Keith Carney. The Anaheim defenceman tried something novice coaches teach kids not to do: pass the puck up the middle of the ice from behind the net. Wellwood intercepted and fired a wrist shot under the crossbar behind goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere for his fifth goal of the season and his first since Nov. 12.

Niedermayer tied it at 12:31 with his eighth goal. Toronto's Alexander Khavanov stepped out of the penalty box one second before Niedermayer's wrist shot from the circle to the left of the Leafs net went through the legs of defenceman Aki Berg and eluded Tellqvist.

Carney and Vitaly Vishnevski were both in the penalty box when Kaberle slapped the puck into a top corner of the net at 3:03 of the second. It was only the Czech defenceman's second goal of the season.

"We'll take whatever is there -- it doesn't matter who takes the shot,'' said Kaberle.

The Leafs went up 3-1 with another power-play goal at 11:31. Joe DiPenta was off for tripping -- a fourth consecutive Ducks penalty -- when Steen got his 10th. Giguere was on his knees in front of his crease to make a save and the rebound went to Steen, who took a stride and flicked the puck into the open net.

Selanne made it 3-2 at 14:50. Andy McDonald delivered a cross-crease pass with his back to the revitalized Finn, who tapped the puck into the open side for his team-leading 16th goal.

Steen got a breakaway on a power play early in the third and shot the puck into a kneeling Giguere's chest. In the end, the Leafs didn't need the extra goal.

The Mighty Ducks got better as the game went on -- outshot 13-4 in the first, they had a 14-9 advantage in the second and a 11-5 edge in the third. But they could only get one puck past Tellqvist in the last 40 minutes.

"We weren't ready to go and they were, and that was the difference,'' defenceman Scott Niedermayer said of his team's slow start.

The Carney giveaway and the penalties combined to undermine the Ducks' effort.

"We've got to find ways to win rather than finding ways to lose,'' said coach Randy Carlyle.

Added Giguere: "We're a better team than that, and we all know it.''

The Leafs were lucky to escape with the two points.

"It looked like we were afraid to win,'' said Quinn. "We're still thinking about this wide-open game and how pretty we can be playing it.''

The Leafs' next game is in Ottawa on Saturday (CBC, 7 p.m. ET).

"We haven't been playing that badly,'' said Steen. "We just needed to score some goals.''

The Leafs are in the midst of playing only four games in two weeks, and Quinn isn't happy about it because, beginning with the Ottawa game, they'll play eight times in 14 nights.

"I don't know why we have to have it like this, but it is what it is,'' he said.

Notes: Anaheim had 13 giveaways and Toronto only eight . . . The Leafs won 62 per cent of the faceoffs . . . Mats Sundin couldn't score despite a game-high five shots on goal . . . Besides Belfour, the Leafs were without centre Eric Lindros. He had what the club described as an "upper body injury'' . . . Right-winger Tie Domi went to the dressing room after sliding heavily into the end boards in the second period, but he was back on the ice for the third . . . Defenceman Staffan Kronwall, who sprained a knee Nov. 26, still isn't fit to play . . . Right-winger Mariusz Czerkawski was a healthy scratch for the eighth straight game . . . Forward Wade Belak, who was a healthy scratch for eight straight games before getting in for a 2-1 loss Saturday to Dallas, was shunted back to the press box . . . Anaheim was without defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh (knee) . . . Announced attendance was 19,401.

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