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Kilger scores off-balance game-winner as Leafs get past Coyotes 3-2

NHL.com @NHL

WINNIPEG - It's still early in the pre-season, but the Toronto Maple Leafs' new top line is already looking good.

Newly acquired forward Jason Blake scored the tying goal as the Leafs went on to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in NHL exhibition action Wednesday night. It was the first game together for the line of Blake, Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov and their performance showed promise as the trio created numerous scoring opportunities.

"It's all about timing, jumping in the holes for me and what Mats is going to do and what Nik is going to do," said Blake, the former New York Islander who signed a five-year deal with Toronto in July.

"Once we get more comfortable like we did in the third period, I think things should be good."

Chad Kilger scored the winning goal on Phoenix netminder Alex Auld at 12:03 of the third period in front of 13,417 fans at MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

Alex Steen had the other goal for Toronto (1-1-0). Martin Hanzal and Daniel Winnik replied for the Coyotes (1-1-1).

The two teams play each other again Thursday night in Toronto.

Blake tied the game 2-2 five minutes into the third period after Sundin curled around the back of the net and flipped a backhand shot at the net. Blake was standing at the side and shot the puck past Auld.

"You can't draw too many conclusions after one exhibition game, but I thought we created some chances," Sundin said. "Coming from behind like that is always nice. We'll take the win."

Toronto head coach Paul Maurice liked the effort he saw, even though he knew his players were tired after getting into Winnipeg at 3 a.m.

Kilger's goal was an example of that effort, he said.

Leafs forward Bates Battaglia had sent a pass from behind the net to Kilger out in front, who was starting to fall when he shot the puck.

"Chad is having a really good camp," Maurice said. "What he's become is a real versatile player.

"We've played him left wing, we've played him centre, we've used him to kill penalties, but he's also got a big shot."

Maurice said he'll put a younger line-up on the ice for Thursday's game.

Winnipeg-born Steen, playing his first pro game in the city where his father Thomas left his mark with the former Winnipeg Jets, scored Toronto's first goal of the game. On the power play, Steen sent a rebound from teammate Andy Wozniewski's shot past Auld at 9:43.

The crowd appeared divided between the Maple Leafs and Coyotes, judging by the number of Toronto and Phoenix jerseys in the crowd. There were even a few Jets shirts, even though the franchise left for Phoenix after the 1995-96 season.

Hanzal tied the game for Phoenix at 8:09 of the second period on a deflected pass that snuck past netminder Andrew Raycroft. Hanzal was Phoenix's first-round pick (17th overall) in the 2005 draft. The centre played with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League last season.

Four minutes later, Winnik made it 2-1 on a shot that had the crowd confused for a moment. Winnik's bullet wrist shot looked like it hit the crossbar and zipped out, where it was slapped in by Hanzal. It ended up that Winnik's shot had hit the inside of the net.

Winnik played for San Antonio of the American Hockey League last season.

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