TORONTO - Curtis Joseph made 29 saves to earn his first win of the season and finally bag the 450th victory of his career as the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 in overtime Tuesday night.
Backed by goals from Nikolai Kulemin, Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake and Pavel Kubina, with the winner 33 seconds into the extra period, the 41-year-old helped his team stop a three-game losing streak and halted a personal drought dating back to April 5, when he beat Vancouver while with Calgary.
Colby Armstrong had tied the game 3-3 for Atlanta on a power play at 13:17 of the third, but Kubina won it with the extra man by blasting a slapshot past Johan Hedberg.
Joseph will get a chance to build on his performance when he starts again Thursday when the Maple Leafs (15-16-6) host the Buffalo Sabres.
Bryan Little, with his seventh in four games, and Jim Slater also scored for the Thrashers (12-21-4), who have lost three in a row.
Joseph was making his first start since a 6-3 loss at home Nov. 25 to the very same Thrashers and hoped to steady his often shaky play this season. Things didn't start well as the Leafs fell behind 2-0 early, but he soon settled to allow his teammates to work their way back into things.
Blake gave the Maple Leafs their first lead of the night at 3-2 with 1:26 left in the second period when he tapped in the rebound of a Jonas Frogren point shot initially deflected by Dominic Moore en the way to the net.
They couldn't hold that lead, but a Tobias Enstrom interference penalty with 8.1 seconds left set up Kubina for the winner.
Toronto's 3-2 advantage was set up by Joseph's stop of Slater on a breakaway to preserve the 2-2 tie. The crowd of 19,260 began chanting "Cujo, Cujo," once the Leafs cleared the zone and then again when play stopped.
Joseph made a couple of solid saves before that, as well, seemingly energized by Stempniak's goal at 4:16 of the second that evened things. The slick winger, playing on the first line with Matt Stajan sidelined by an eye injury, took a pass from Alexei Ponikarovsky and wired a wrist shot past Hedberg from the faceoff circle.
The Thrashers finished the first period up 2-1.
Little opened the scoring on a power play, completing a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play by whipping Todd White's centring pass from behind the goal past Joseph at 4:41.
Just over two minutes later, Slater made it 2-0 when he took a brilliant touch pass from Joey Crabb at the blue-line, walked in on Joseph and had his rebound trickle just past the goal-line.
Kulemin cut into the lead at 8:29 when he converted a brilliant behind-the-back centring pass from Mikhail Grabovski as he cut behind then goal.
Notes: Leafs winger Jeremy Williams suffered a shoulder injury falling awkwardly into the boards early in the first period and didn't return. He came in with five goals and two assists since his recall Dec. 7. ... Stajan (right eye) and tough guy Andre Deveaux were scratched for the Maple Leafs. ... Zach Bogosian (broken left leg), the third overall pick last summer, fellow blue-liner Scott Lehman (upper body) and centre Jason Williams sat out for the Thrashers. ... Kulemin ended an eight-game goalless streak.