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Phil Kessel Scores OT Winner as Maple Leafs Beat Avalanche

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs


TORONTO - Two teams with a reputation for poor puck possession showed why, giving it to each other on failed clears and giveaways.

The result was a predictably entertaining game that the Toronto Maple Leafs won 3-2 in overtime over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.

Phil Kessel scored the winner for the Leafs (2-2-0), who also got goals from James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul. Goaltender James Reimer, who gave his team a scare with a delay of game penalty in the third, made 22 saves to pick up another victory in his second straight start.

Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene scored for Colorado (1-2-1). With a pair of assists, former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla picked up his first two points with his new team.

As the Leafs outshot the Avalanche 40-24, Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov was sharp in making 37 saves.

Even after things started badly for Toronto with a hooking penalty on Stephane Robidas just 13 seconds in, the Leafs grabbed the lead midway through the first period.

After Jamie McGinn turned it over to Tyler Bozak in the neutral zone, van Riemsdyk and Kessel got a two-on-one with plenty of room to operate. Kessel threaded a pass by Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie and to van Riemsdyk for his second of the season at 9:54 to make it 1-0.

Too many Leafs defenders crowded around the net contributed to Colorado's tying goal a few minutes later. Stationed behind Reimer's net, O'Reilly got a good bounce when the puck ricocheted off Erik Johnson's stick and Iginla's skate back to him for a back-hander at 13:14.

The score remained 1-1 until 17:40 of the second, when losing a puck battle in the corner doomed the Leafs. McGinn came away with it, got it to Iginla, and the well-travelled winger found Duchene for a perfect cross-bar-and-down goal.

Just when it looked like the Leafs couldn't cash in on chances, Lupul brought some life back into the crowd of 18,754. A failed clear by Colorado defenceman Brad Stuart led to the puck landing right on Lupul's stick for the tying goal at 10:36 of the third.

Within seconds, Lupul had another Grade-A opportunity on a rush but sailed his shot high and wide. Not long after, Varlamov stoned Kessel on a breakaway to keep it at 2-2.

Reimer put the Leafs in a dangerous spot at 14:23 when his attempt to bank the puck off the glass went into the stands. But the penalty kill was successful on the way to overtime.

Notes — Jake Gardiner was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Coach Randy Carlyle said the 24-year-old needs to "play better" whenever he returns to the lineup. ... Defenceman Roman Polak left briefly in the first after taking a shot to the left arm. After going to the bench in pain, Polak returned for his next shift.

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