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Three Straight Wins For Leafs

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO -- Joffrey Lupul kept the Toronto Maple Leafs from squandering two points they would have hated to lose.

The resurgent forward scored at 7:10 of the third period to help the Maple Leafs pull out a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings after blowing a three-goal lead on Saturday night.

With the game looking to have slipped out of Toronto's control, Lupul grabbed a rare turnover from Henrik Zetterberg behind the net and lifted a shot over Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. It continued a breakout season for the 28-year-old, who is tied for third in NHL scoring with 47 points.

More importantly for the Leafs, it resulted in a third straight victory during a key homestand and kept them climbing up the Eastern Conference standings.

Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and David Steckel also scored for Toronto (21-15-5). Jonas Gustavsson made 37 saves to keep his run of starts going under Ron Wilson's win-and-you-stay-in system.

Todd Bertuzzi, Niklas Kronwall and Jiri Hudler replied for Detroit (25-14-1).

There was plenty of buzz around Air Canada Centre with a number of Red Wings fans turning up for the only meeting between the Original Six teams this season. The Leafs were fortunate that it was played in their building since Detroit has been virtually unbeatable at Joe Louis Arena and a pedestrian 10-12-0 away from it.

Toronto got off to a dream start.

Kessel scored his 24th of the season at 4:30 on a penalty shot, dragging the puck across the top of Howard's crease before roofing a shot.

The lead grew shortly after as Phaneuf, playing with a longer visor after taking a puck in cheek on Thursday night, hammered home a point shot at 8:19. It was the seventh goal of the season for the exuberant Toronto captain.

And the Leafs kept on coming, with Steckel making it 3-0 just over two minutes later by completing a lovely passing play with Kessel and Lupul. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had seen enough and called a timeout to try and settle down his team.

It turned out to be a good move as Detroit came out firing in the second period.

Bertuzzi started the comeback at 6:46 with a nice tip on a play that needed a lengthy video review. That was the first goal Gustavsson had surrendered in more than five periods.

The game got even tighter when Kronwall took the puck hard to the net and stuffed home his own rebound at 15:39, making it 3-2 heading to the final 20 minutes.

Hudler tied it up at 4:32 of the third period from the side of the goal and it looked like the Leafs were on the verge of a collapse.

But Clarke MacArthur followed with a nice individual rush and Lupul's goal came shortly afterwards. The Leafs were under siege in the final minutes but Gustavsson shut the door to preserve the victory.

Notes: With defenceman Mike Komisarek returning to Toronto's lineup for the first time since Nov. 17, Jake Gardiner was a healthy scratch ... Mike Brown also returned from injury for the Leafs ... Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm sat out for Detroit with groin strains ... Howard remains stuck on 99 career NHL victories ... Announced attendance was 19,536.

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