The Toronto Maple Leafs
aren’t letting their playoff dreams die without a fight.
The Leafs were looking into the abyss of a 10-point deficit in the race for the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference when the Philadelphia Flyers — who own the eighth spot — grabbed a 3-0 lead early in the third period Tuesday night. But the Leafs didn’t quit, Mats Sundin, Pavel Kubina and Jeremy Williams scored to force overtime and Kubina’s goal with 56 seconds left in OT gave the Leafs a stunning 4-3 victory at Air Canada Centre.
The victory kept the Leafs’ slim playoff hopes alive. With 72 points, they’re seven behind the Flyers going into Wednesday’s rematch at Philadelphia.
“We're alive,'' said Leafs coach Paul Maurice, who pulled goaltender Vesa Toskala in the final 90 seconds with the game tied and Toronto on a power play in order to try to get a regulation win. The tactic didn’t work, but the Leafs did get the two points when Kubina’s passout deflected into the net off a Philadelphia defenseman.
The Leafs appeared headed for a loss that would essentially have ended their playoff hopes when Daniel Briere scored 1:12 into the third period to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead. But Sundin’s power-play goal at 4:48 got the comeback started. Kubina's point shot got through traffic and past Martin Biron at 13:16 before Williams picked the puck up on the sideboards and tied the game with a hard wrist shot at 16:19.
'I liked the courage we showed and the character in coming back like that,'' Sundin said.
Maurice went for the win by pulling Toskala seconds after Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn was penalized for hooking with 1:55 left in regulation.
Alex Ponikarovsky had Biron down and out during a late scramble but couldn't get the puck over him. Philadelphia didn't come close to scoring on the empty goal at the other end.
''He was coming out regardless,'' Maurice said of Toskala. ''(There are) two factors: One, you are aware of the potential (to score), so you ask the people around you. They are 50-50 on that. 'The downside is the puck is in your net, you lose the game and I'm standing up here not feeling so fresh.''
Kubina sent the sellout crowd into euphoria when his passout hit a stick and went into the net on the Leafs’ 55th shot of the night.
The Flyers were outshot 30-12 in the first two periods but led 2-0 after 40 minutes on Upshall’s deflection at 13:26 of the first period and Coburn’s screened floater from the point that sailed past Toskala with 55 seconds left in the second.
Despite the huge disparity in shots, the Flyers appeared on their way to victory when Briere scored. But the Leafs wouldn’t quit, taking 21 shots in the third period and finally solving Biron.
“They kept putting pressure on us, kept taking chances, and it paid off for them at a key time in the game,'' Biron said. ''That pressure made it hard for us to do a lot of the little things.''
Flyers coach John Stevens wasn’t happy with the way his team played after taking the three-goal lead.
“We just played with way too much panic in our game,'' Stevens said. ''You have to have the courage to play. You have to have the courage to take people on 1-on-1. You have to have the courage to play a hockey game. To go out there and play panicky like we did tonight, throwing the puck away and not moving our feet, it was ridiculous.''
Sharks 2, Predators 1 | Video
San Jose’s winning streak is at a franchise-record 10 games. The Sharks moved into first place in the Pacific Division thanks to goals by Joe Pavelski
and Milan Michalek
and 26 saves by Evgeni Nabokov
The victory capped a stretch in which the Sharks played 11 of 13 games away from HP Pavilion. They are an NHL-best 25-8-3 on the road.
''When you basically outshoot a team in their own building, with as long as we have been on the road, that says a lot about our character and determination right now,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said.
Pavelski got credit for the game’s first goal at 15:32 of the second period when he and Nashville's Greg Zanon got tangled in front of the net but Pavelski was able to get off a shot from close range. It looked like Zanon, who was lying down in the net behind the goal line, had stopped the puck, but video review ruled that the puck had crossed the goal line.
''I had all the confidence in the world it was in,'' Pavelski said. ''I took a little bit longer than we would have liked for it to be decided.'' Predators coach Barry Trotz still is not happy with the explanation he was given about the play.
''It was actually Pavelski who landed on the puck,'' Trotz said. ''And if you look at it, the puck is either pushed in with his hands or shin pads with a kicking motion.”
Michalek scored an unassisted goal 37 seconds into the third period, beating Dan Ellis with a short wrist shot. That proved to be the winner when Jason Arnott scored a power-play goal at 5:29, beating Nabokov over the shoulder.
But Nabokov made the one-goal lead stand up the rest of the way, including a Nashville power play over the final 2:07 of regulation after Marc-Edouard Vlasic drew a double minor for high-sticking. He made big saves on Arnott and Marek Zidlicky in the final seconds for his League-high 40th victory of the season.
“Our work ethic was there and the guys were playing as hard as they could but they just couldn’t put that last puck in the net,” Ellis said. The Sharks swept the four-game season series from Nashville. The Predators’ 78 points are two less than eighth-place Vancouver in the Western Conference. Nabokov won all four games.
''He has been not only good against this team, but against the rest of the League,'' Ellis said. ''His defense really helps him out. They limit a lot of the quality chances. ... It's really difficult to break through their defensive system. They defend the net and the scoring area very well and limit shots and scoring opportunities.''
Oilers 4, Blues 3, OT | Video
Andrew Cogliano is getting used to being the hero. The Edmonton rookie set an NHL record by the overtime winner for the third consecutive game to give the Oilers the victory after they blew a 3-0 lead.
Cogliano failed to convert a couple of chances in overtime, but didn’t miss on the third one when Sam Gagner backhanded a blind pass into the slot. Cogliano fired the puck over goaltender Manny Legace with 4.9 seconds remaining to give the Oilers their seventh victory in eight games.
''It was pretty shocking,'' Cogliano said. ''It's hard to believe something like this, it's certainly a feeling I will remember for the rest of my life. ''Things like this don't happen often. I think I've just been really lucky to have those opportunities go in for me. But three in a row, that feels pretty good.''
The Oilers looked like they were going to run away with the game early on, racing out to a 3-0 lead in the game's opening 8:40 on goals by Zach Stortini, Gagner and Jarret Stoll. But St. Louis got a goal from Andy McDonald late in the first period, and Lee Stempniak made it 3-2 just 40 seconds into the second period.
Brad Boyes tied it at 11:15, beating Mathieu Garon with a wrist shot after a passout from Paul Kariya.
"We had a lot of mistakes in our end and didn't play our best game," Cogliano remarked. "But we'll take it."
So will Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, whose team is now seven points behind eighth-place Vancouver in the West.
“The next time we get a 3-0 lead, I’m going to pack up and leave,” MacTavish joked. ''Kind of hard on the heart for this time of year. You take a 3-0 lead and you think maybe it is going to be an easy night for us.
''We have a young team and you got seduced into thinking it's going to be point night. Hopefully, we have learned a lesson here.''
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Blues, who have lost 10 of their past 11 games and are 14th in the West.
Blues coach Andy Murray admitted it was special to see Cogliano come through again, though it's not likely to be a memory he’ll treasure.
''Obviously we scouted the two previous wins and saw the Columbus one and saw the one in Chicago, and he was on the ice and put the puck on his stick with a few seconds left in the hockey game, so good for him, but I didn't really enjoy watching it,'' he said.
Red Wings 3, Blackhawks 1 | Video
The Wings are flying high again. Pavel Datsyuk scored the go-ahead goal after Chris Osgood stopped Robert Lang’s penalty shot in the second period as Detroit won its fourth in a row after losing 10 of 11, its worst slump in nearly 20 years.
Even with his team’s lead in the Western Conference standings back up to eight points, Wings coach Mike Babcock isn’t satisfied.
''We've still got to ratchet it up,'' Babcock said. ''It's nice to see we've won four in a row, getting our confidence back, but we still have a long ways to go.''
The Wings grabbed an early lead on Kirk Maltby’s goal at 8:34. Dallas Drake, playing his 1,000th NHL game, earned an assist.
Chicago’s Rene Bourque tied it at 10:43, and rookie goalie Corey Crawford kept the score even until Datsyuk picked up a pass from Jiri Hudler and beat Crawford from the slot at 15:52 of the second period.
Those were the only shots to beat Crawford, who stopped 44 shots before Johan Franzen hit the empty net with 49 seconds left.
"He was outstanding," Chicago coach Denis Savard said of his rookie goaltender. "He gave us a chance to win."
Crawford deflected credit for his sensational night.
"I don't think they had too many rebound chances," he said. "The guys did a good job."
Osgood’s best came with the score deadlocked at 1-1 when he stopped the penalty shot by Lang, a former Red Wing, at the 10-minute mark of the middle period.
“That was huge,” Babcock said. "Obviously, they hadn’t had a whole lot of the play and suddenly they can be up 2-1 going into the break. I thought that was a huge save by Ozzie at a real important part of the game.”
For the second straight game, the Wings got a key member of their defense back from injury. Nicklas Lidstrom returned on Sunday; Chris Chelios returned on Tuesday after missing almost three weeks with a chipped fibula.
Senators 4, Bruins 1 | Video
Dany Heatley and the Senators are coming out of their slumps. Heatley had three goals, giving him four in two games, and Ottawa won its second straight game by beating the suddenly slumping Bruins at Scotiabank Place.
Heatley had just three goals in 13 games before getting the game-winner in Phoenix on Saturday. He scored twice and set up Jason Spezza’s goal in Ottawa’s three-goal second period, then added an empty-netter after Dennis Wideman spoiled Martin Gerber’s shutout with 2:26 left in regulation.
''When you get into a slump, sometimes offensively you try and do too much and not shoot the puck,'' Heatley said. ''I think we've all been guilty of that, and the last two nights we've just tried to make the game simpler.''
Heatley opened the scoring at 5:44 of the middle period with a wrist shot from the along the boards just seconds after Gerber made a big stop on Boston forward Phil Kessel. Heatley made it 2-0 at 11:05 when he beat Alex Auld while on the power play with a wrist shot from the left circle.
Spezza swept the rebound of Heatley’s shot past Auld at 17:18 for another power-play goal.
Gerber made 28 saves in his sixth straight start and appears to have taken over the No. 1 goaltending role.
''He was square to the puck and he didn't give up much,'' coach Bryan Murray said of Gerber.
The Bruins lost for the fifth time in six games and have scored just seven goals in that span.
''We're kind of struggling to score goals, but before this game we got three out of four points, so it was pretty good before this game,'' rookie David Krejci said. ''We've got to bear down and try to score on our chances. I think we played pretty good until they scored two goals. We had some good chances early on, but we just can't score. We need to bury those opportunities.''
Avalanche 5, Thrashers 2 | Video
The weary Avs, playing their third game in four nights, still had enough to beat the struggling Thrashers and grab a share of first place in the Northwest Division, where four teams are separated by three points.
Andrew Brunette scored twice to give the surging Avalanche 82 points, pulling Colorado even with Calgary, which still has two games in hand. Minnesota has 81 points and Vancouver has 80 — good for eighth in the Western Conference.
"I don't think there's any opportunity to feel complacent," Avs coach Joel Quenneville said of the topsy-turvy division and playoff race. "One day you're in third (place), the next you're in eighth, and the ninth-place team is right there.
"We've got to take care of our own business," Quenneville added. "Whoever does best within this division is going to have the best chance of winning it."
Despite playing for the second straight time without Peter Forsberg, the Avs won for the seventh time in eight games and the 10th in their last 14 road games.
The Avalanche got a lift from rookie David Jones, a ninth-round draft choice in 2003, who had two first-period assists before scouring his first career goal to make it 4-1 at 9:45 of the second.
"I can't wait to get that puck home and put it on my mantel," he said. "It will be up there at the top."
Jones assisted on Brunette's 16th goal and Joe Sakic's 10th goal to help the Avalanche take a 2-0 lead in the first period. Sakic, who ranks eighth in career NHL points, thought Jones played with poise.
"I think he played really well," Sakic said. "He's got size. He's got speed. He goes to the net hard and handles the puck well."
Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, who came to Atlanta from Pittsburgh in the Marian Hossa trade, had the only goals for the Thrashers, who are 14th in the East and all but out of the playoff race.
“There's nothing to say," Atlanta captain Bobby Holik said. "There's nothing for us to say right now."
Coach Don Waddell indicated the Thrashers have more problems right now than just poor goaltending and inadequate defense.
"It shouldn't be a problem getting up for games, but for some reason this is the first one we've had like that," Waddell said. "So let's hope we can blow by it pretty quickly as we start a stretch drive of seven games in 11 nights. It's going to be a long 11 nights if we give those kind of 60 minutes."
Lightning 8, Islanders 4 | Video
Lightning coach John Tortorella moved past Bob Johnson to become the winningest American-born NHL coach with 235 victories as Tampa Bay beat the reeling Islanders for just their second win in 12 games.
''I think it was certainly satisfying for our players,'' said Tampa Bay assistant coach Mike Sullivan, who addressed the media because Tortorella left right after the game due to a personal matter. ''We've worked extremely hard over the past six or seven or eight games, maybe even longer, and haven't got rewarded.''
Vincent Lecavalier, who ended a 12-game goal-scoring drought on Sunday, scored three times and Michel Ouellet added two goals.
The Islanders, who have five players on the injured list and have several others playing hurt, lost two more forwards with injuries while losing for the fifth time in six games.
''When it rains, it pours,'' captain Bill Guerin said. ''We're down a bunch of guys right now. Our young guys have stepped in and played well, but we need more depth. It's nobody's fault. It just happened.''
Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro had allowed just a total of two goals in beating Tampa Bay in each of their first three meetings. The Bolts needed just over 12 minutes to match that total when Ouellet and Lecavalier scored power-play goals in the first 12:09 for a 2-0 lead.
After goals by Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko tied the game, the Lightning took the lead for good on goals by Jeff Halpern and Nick Tarnasky. Lecavalier made it 5-2 at 4:58 of the third, then completed his hat trick at 17:43, sparking a burst of three goals in 42 seconds by Tampa Bay.
''It seemed tonight, everything went in at once,'' Lecavalier said.
The Islanders, who lost Andy Hilbert to injury in warmups and Fedotenko in the third period with a sprained knee, fell to 13th in the East.
"We're fragile right now and we're making mental errors," coach Ted Nolan said. "When you're team is fragile, everything has to go right. Any kind of giveaway is going to make the situation worse. We're getting effort from 95 percent of the guys, and those other five are hurting us."
Coyotes 3, Ducks 2, SO | Video
Phoenix kept its playoff hopes alive by rallying from a 2-0 deficit and beating Anaheim in a shootout for the third time this season behind former Duck goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov, who came to the Coyotes on waivers in November, turned aside 35 shots by his former team in regulation and overtime, then stopped Todd Bertuzzi, Todd Marchant and Chris Pronger in the shootout. Radim Vrbata beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the only goal of the penalty-shot competition as the Coyotes improved to 5-1 against Anaheim this season. Three of the wins have come in shootouts and another in overtime.
Phoenix now has 75 points and trails Vancouver by five points for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 12 games to play.
"I just thought our guys played their hearts out," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Even down 2-0, we were playing with a lot of energy.
"We're battling for our lives now, we know that. . . . We know we have our work cut out for us, but we're not out of this by any means. Nobody in our locker room is gonna throw in the towel."
Marchant’s backhander through Bryzgalov’s pads at 18:38 of the first period and Ryan Getzlaf’s one-timer at 7:17 of the second period put the Ducks ahead by two goals. But Shane Doan beat Giguere a slap shot under the crossbar at 16:17 to cut the margin to a goal, and Keith Yandle’s power-play slap shot from the left point with 8:33 left in regulation time sent the game into OT.
''This was a huge game and we needed to find a way to get two points,'' Doan said. ''When we were down, everyone on the bench was relaxed. We knew how important this game was to us and had to somehow get back in the game.''
Vrbata scored on a backhander in the second round of the shootout before Pronger fired over the crossbar to end the game.
"I got the angle," Vrbata said. "I saw Peter (Mueller) went in a little too fast, and he (Giguere) stayed with him, and I thought I'd do a little bit different. I was happy to be second. It's a good position. We talked about it on the bench with Peter and what we were going to do."
The point moved the Ducks within three of second-place Dallas in the Pacific Division. But Anaheim was displeased with the point that got away.
''We didn't match their desperation,'' Giguere said. ''They wanted it more than we did. This was about desperation, and we did not respond.''
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was satisfied with the point but said Anaheim did not capitalize on its chances.
''We didn't accomplish what we wanted,'' he said. ''Sure, we picked up a point, but also lost a point. On the road, you get what you can, but the puck did not bounce our way.''
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.