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Toughness returns to Toronto

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs have decided they aren't going to let this season go down without a fight.

Even though the NHL's latest crackdown on obstruction and new quick face-off rule has dramatically decreased any extra-curricular activities, the Leafs finally showed some toughness in their 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.

Floating through the first nine games of the season without showing the grit, determination or feistiness that propelled them to the Eastern Conference Final, the Leafs needed a boost to try and end the team's negative momentum.

Tie Domi came to the rescue putting together a tough-guy special, assisting on Alyn McCauley's game-opening goal before going toe-to-toe with Anaheim's Kevin Sawyer after the ensuing face-off.

Domi throws a couple with Anaheim's Kevin Sawyer.
Graig Abel Photography
It was the enforcer's first bout of the season and raised his penalty minute total to a mere seven. Domi, the most penalized Leaf of all-time, told reporters in recent days that the game situation more than anything else dictates if he will drop the gloves.

With the Leafs playing from behind or in close scores of late, the opportunity never presented itself to Domi. With no physical play to speak of the Leafs sport the second worst record in the East. Not surprisingly a good effort came when Domi and others got involved without taking silly penalties.

""We have seen very little hitting in the game and for some players that's their bread and butter," GM/coach Pat Quinn said.

"The dancers were still trying to dance but the piano carriers and the piano movers all wanted to dance (too)."

The hitting increase was an indication of the team's desire but turnovers still appear to be a problem. Four players -- Travis Green, Shayne Corson, Darcy Tucker and Jyrki Lumme -- below the face-off dot in Anaheim's zone resulted in an odd-man rush and the Ducks first-period goal.

It's those types of mistakes that have cost dearly thus far.

"You basically put a noose around your own throat with that one," Quinn said recalling the goal. "He (Lumme) thought it was going to be good play, a dandy, it's going to end up in their net and it didn't, it ended up in ours."

After a three-goal second Toronto's sleepy habits returned in the third. A deep defensive-zone miscue made it a two-goal game and the bottom looked like it may be falling out on the Leafs again until Robert Reichel scored a short-handed insurance marker.

It seems the Leafs have realized physical play is a key to success, the next step is building on that comprehension.
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