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Leafs among those thankful for a rally

by Brian Hunter
A few thoughts while we daydream about how Mats Sundin might look in our favorite team's jersey:

Back in the win column — Several NHL teams rallied for victories Thursday night, but perhaps none of them breathed a collective sigh of relief bigger than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Anton Stralman scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period as the Leafs scored 4 unanswered goals at TD Banknorth Garden and doubled up the Boston Bruins 4-2 for their first win since Opening Night. Since then, Toronto had suffered 5-straight defeats, 3 in shootouts.

"It's a young team and they're not going to give up and they're not going to think, 'Oh, here we go again from last year or the year before,"' Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "This group seems to really enjoy playing with each other, and tonight was a lot of fun."


"The fact is, Leaf fans are loyal to a team that disappoints..."


"Wilson needs to keep the same lineup for Saturday..."


"I will no less welcome you back with open arms..."


It didn't start out that way, as Boston jumped to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, and fun probably didn't describe the way Leafs defenseman Mike Van Ryn felt in the opening minute of the second period when Bruins forward Milan Lucic sent him into the boards so hard that a pane of glass shattered.

Two fans were treated for cuts on their faces and sent to the hospital for further treatment, and Van Ryn ended up with shards of glass inside his equipment. But he got the Leafs on the board with a power-play goal 6:17 into the second and Nik Antropov tied it 2:13 later.

"At least I'll get on TV," Van Ryn said of the hit. "I'm still itchy. It seems like it's caught everywhere on me. ... It just exploded. I feel bad for the lady that got cut."

Knocked from the ranks — Although the Minnesota Wild knew they were going to lose at some point this season, they probably weren't expecting it to be Thursday night — at least not after they took a 3-1 lead against the visiting Buffalo Sabres into the final 5 minutes of regulation.

But if the Wild came in white-hot, then the Sabres weren't far behind. They showed why, as Adam Mair cut the deficit lead to 1 with 4 minutes remaining, then former University of Minnesota standout Thomas Vanek scored 46 seconds later to force overtime. It then took Derek Roy all of 44 seconds to tally in the extra period and stun the crowd at Xcel Energy Center. The Sabres' 4-3 victory ended a season-opening, 4-game win streak for the Wild.

"We've been showing this all year," said Vanek, who had 57 goals and 56 assists in two years of college hockey with the Golden Gophers. "Obviously it's not something we look for, to be down late in the game, but it shows good character for the team — never quitting."

Vanek has scored in 6 of Buffalo's 7 games this season, and the Sabres are off to a sizzling 6-0-1 start. It didn't look promising when they entered the final period trailing 2-1 and promptly fell behind by 2 on a goaltending gaffe by Ryan Miller.

With the Wild on a power play, Miller attempted to play the puck away from the onrushing Brent Burns in the left circle, only to backhand it right into his own net. Miller looked up at the ceiling in disbelief, but thanks to the Sabres' late flurry he was able to joke about it later.

"That was about the most embarrassing thing I've ever done in my life," Miller said. "I took my eye off it to see where I could put it, and when I looked back the puck wasn't where I thought it would be. So I tried to backhand it, and a guy kind of hit my stick.

"I figured if I played long enough I'd make the blooper reel."

Setting the tempo — While they came out of the first 2 games of a Metro-area road trip with a split, the Dallas Stars put themselves in an early hole against each of their last 2 opponents. The Rangers scored 58 seconds into Monday's contest before the Stars rallied for a 2-1 victory, and it took the Devils just 1:59 to get on the board en route to a 5-0 rout Wednesday.

Concluding the 3-game journey at Nassau Coliseum, the Stars dictated play from the opening drop of the puck and Loui Eriksson's power-play goal at 3:30 of the first punctuated a 3-0 lead after 1 period of an eventual 5-3 win against the New York Islanders. Marty Turco made 24 stops for Dallas.

"One of the big differences between last night and tonight was Marty made some big saves early," said captain Brenden Morrow, whose goal and 2 assists were part of a big night for the Eriksson-Morrow-Mike Ribeiro line. "It gave us a bit of confidence."

Maybe more than just a bit for Ribeiro, as he factored in on all 5 Dallas goals and enjoyed a career night.

"I just felt good tonight," Ribeiro said. "It's good for my confidence, and things just felt right tonight. It was a good game overall. We killed some penalties, blocked shots and were good on special teams. We got second effort tonight, and hopefully we can build on this going forward."

Said Stars coach Dave Tippett: "That line was very good. They were dominant, and Ribeiro with 5points was outstanding."



Getting to the points — Their long-term goal is to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Final, but for the time being Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are putting up some pretty impressive individual statistics.


"They can scratch, fight and claw their way to a victory..."


"Only 6 shots in the second period didn’t really help..."


"This season has been a bit of a mystery so far..."


The two young superstars each had a goal and an assist during a 4-goal third period, rallying the Penguins to a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Mellon Arena. Malkin leads the League with 13 points and Crosby's 11 points are tied for second.

"We did what we do, we kept working and working and kept putting pucks on the net. When you have guys like Sid and Geno (Malkin), you know it's going to go in," said Maxime Talbot, who also scored in the third. "It was a pretty intense and pretty good period for us."

The goal that got the Penguins going was credited to both Malkin and Crosby. Originally it was awarded to Malkin, whose drive from the right point on a Pittsburgh power play eluded Carolina goalie Michael Leighton. But later in the period it was determined Crosby got a stick on the puck and redirected it into the net.

"The linesman asked me right after the goal if I got my stick on it," said Crosby, who was initially wary of the question. "I wasn't sure if it was a high stick, so I wanted to stay away from it."

Malkin got his name in the goal column a second time — and this time it stayed — when he put the puck into an empty net in the final minute to seal the come-from-behind victory.

Turning to the captain — What was the biggest factor in the Calgary Flames roaring back from a 3-goal deficit to leave Sommet Center with a 5-3 win against the host Nashville Predators? Flames coach Mike Keenan pointed to the first of captain Jarome Iginla's 3 goals, which jump-started the team's rally.

"A goal like that always gives you momentum," Keenan said of Iginla's wrist shot past Dan Ellis with 5:56 left in the second period. "I think that was the big goal for us."

Iginla, like a true captain, was looking to spread the praise elsewhere and he found a worthy unit — the Flames' penalty killers, who held the Predators to 1-for-9 on the power play and killed off more than 3 minutes of 5-on-3 disadvantage time.

"The penalty kill was huge," Iginla said. "They had 2 five-on-threes for almost two minutes each. If they got any one of those it would have been deflating for us and a huge boost for them."

Calgary ended up winning on 4 goals in the third. Iginla had the first of those and the last — into an empty net, completing the hat trick — while David Moss had the game-tying goal and Mike Cammalleri the go-ahead score. The Flames followed up on a 2-1 win against Washington with a rousing effort.

"Winning these 2 games like we did teaches us to stick with it," Iginla said. "We were down in both of those games.

"We want to come out blazing in every game, but if we're not doing that these are the types of games we can draw on. We can remember that it is possible to make a come back."

Reversal of fortunes — In racing out to a 4-0 start, the Edmonton Oilers grabbed a heart-stopping victory earlier this month on Dustin Penner's goal with 5.4 seconds remaining against Colorado — part of the Avs' 3 straight losses to begin the season.

In less than 2 weeks, things have changed for both squads, and that was reflected when they met again Thursday night at Pepsi Center. Behind a 25-save effort by Peter Budaj in goal, the Avalanche won their fourth in a row, 4-1, and in doing so handed the Oilers their second defeat in as many nights.

Among the offensive contributors for Colorado was Ian Laperriere, who became the 16th player on the team to score a goal in the first 7 games of the season.

"It's amazing," said Laperriere, who scored his first regular-season goal since February against Phoenix. "But I'm way past those stats, never been a stats guy. What's most amazing is we played good defensively and gave up one goal."

Budaj got his second straight start after sitting and watching for 2 games while Andrew Raycroft got the Avalanche going on their streak. Back in net, he looked much more confident than the goalie who gave up 13 goals in those opening 3 losses.

"I feel pretty good. The team's playing really well right now, and we want to keep this going," Budaj said.

No place like home — When the Phoenix Coyotes looked back at why they barely missed making the playoffs last season, a big eyesore was staring them right in the face — a 17-20-4 record at Arena, which tied them for the worst home mark in the entire League.

It's a very small sample, but as the Coyotes aim to get over the hump in 2008-09, they are now 2-0 in front of the home faithful after scoring twice in the third period for a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals.

"It's a quirky stat but here's the flip side. Our record at home is the reason we didn't make the playoffs last year," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "It's a quirky stat, but it's something we have to do."

Phoenix hadn't started 2-0 at home in 8 years, but one guy they didn't have last season was Mikkel Boedker. The Coyotes' top pick in the 2008 Entry Draft scored his third of the season 2:29 into the final period to tie it, then Peter Mueller notched his third just 4:03 later for the decisive goal.

"This was a great win for the boys," Mueller said. "This definitely will lift our spirits."

Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.


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