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Leafs overwhelm Canadiens 6-3

by Brian Compton / NHL.com
On July 3, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired forward Mikhail Grabovski from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2010.

On Saturday night, Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher looked like the winner of the deal.

Grabovski scored and added an assist against his former team, as the Leafs earned a 6-3 win against the Habs in the annual Hall of Fame game at Air Canada Centre. Afterwards, at least one current teammate admitted that Grabovski was pumped to play against the Canadiens. Grabovski has 6 goals and 2 assists in the last 4 games.

"For sure he wanted to show the coach and show the other players on the team that he is a good player," said Leafs forward Niklas Hagman, who scored twice. "I think that he did a pretty good job."

Grabovski had 3 goals in 27 career games with Montreal over the last two seasons — but  has 7 in 15 for the Leafs. Both Saku Koivu and Sergei Kostitsyn went after him in the third period, as Habs coach Guy Carbonneau indicated Grabovski may have said something to get under their skin.

"I don't really care about what he thinks or what he said," Carbonneau said. "He's playing well. Good for him."

Antropov, Pavel Kubina and Alexei Ponikarovsky also scored for Toronto (6-5-4), which outshot its opponent for the 11th straight game.

The Leafs scored the lone goal of the first period, as Hagman scored on the power play 8:12 into the game. It was made possible by Grabovski, who made a dazzling move around Andrei Markov before feeding Hagman at the side of the net.

Grabovski put his team up by a pair when he beat Carey Price at even strength 1:48 into the second for his seventh goal of the season. Grabovski was called for goalie interference less than three minutes later, which led to a power-play goal by Robert Lang at 4:52.

"He's been our best players for two weeks," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of Grabovski. "He's been a dominant player. That's why he's got seven goals now."

Tomas Plekanec erased Montreal's deficit with another power-play goal at 9:59 of the second, only to see Hagman restore Toronto's lead via the man advantage less than two minutes later. But Koivu quickly tied things up for the Habs again when he scored at even strength just 70 seconds later.

The wild second period concluded with the Leafs in front, though, as Antropov beat Price with 3:33 remaining for his fifth goal of the season. With Price out of position, Antropov took four whacks at the puck in a scrum before finally getting it past hulking defenseman Mike Komisarek. The goal gave the Leafs a lead heading into the third period for just the fourth time in 15 games this season.

Toronto held on to it, too. Kubina increased the Leafs' lead to 5-3 just 73 seconds in on a power-play tally, and Ponikarovsky rounded out the scoring with his fourth goal of the season at 16:32.

With a three-game swing in Western Canada looming, Toronto knew that a win against its biggest rival would provide a huge boost. The Leafs visit Calgary on Tuesday, Edmonton on Thursday and Vancouver on Saturday.

"We really wanted that game," Leafs forward Matt Stajan said. "That's how we've got to play every game, come out with an edge and really take it to them. Even when they came back there, we never gave up.

 
 
"We're proving to everybody — we know in here that we can play with any team in this League. There's no doubt about it, that's one of the best teams in the League."

The Leafs and Habs didn't escape the night without some controversy, though. A first-period hit by Habs forward Tom Kostopoulos left Leafs defenseman Mike Van Ryn with a concussion, broken nose and broken hand. Kostopoulos slammed Van Ryn into the end boards from behind and was ejected with a major for boarding. Van Ryn lay on the ice for several minutes with a cut on his forehead and is expected to miss a month.

"It was a dirty hit," Stajan said. "It's something that can't happen in the game. Luckily, we made them pay."

Kostopoulos was apologetic afterwards and said he planned to reach out to Van Ryn at some point.

"I was trying to get in there, get a hit and get the puck," Kostopoulos said. "Like I said, I didn't anticipate him turning and I couldn't stop myself. And I hope he's all right."

Material from wire services was used in this report.




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