The Toronto Maple Leafs
ended their eight-game skid in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night.
Trailing 3-0 midway through the first period, the Leafs rallied behind a pair of goals from Kris Versteeg and three assists from Clarke MacArthur
en route to a wild 5-4 win against the Nashville Predators
at the Air Canada Centre.
A stretch of six straight power plays in the second period allowed Toronto to erase a three-goal deficit. They scored on four of those opportunities -- capped by a Nikolai Kulemin
goal that stood as the winner even though starting goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere had to leave the game in the third period because of a minor groin injury.
Prior to Tuesday night, Toronto's last victory came on Oct. 26. Overall, the team had gone 1-8-3 since opening the season with four straight victories.
"Strange game to say the least," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "I'm glad we won. It's one of those kinds of games that when you look back on it, hopefully it puts an abrupt stop to the slide we've been in. We can use it for momentum."
The skid seemed destined to reach nine games after the Leafs fell behind 3-0 less than 12 minutes into the game. The third goal came just 10 seconds after Wilson had called a timeout, when Mikhail Grabovski
softly threw the puck in front of his own goal and on to Martin Erat
"I tried to leave the building, but contrary to the fire code I think they chained the doors," said Wilson. "I couldn't leave."
's goal with 30 seconds left in the first started to shift the momentum in Toronto's favor. But Marcel Goc beat Giguere on a shorthanded breakaway 4:41 into the second which seemed to put Nashville back in charge.
But a string of power plays allowed the pesky Leafs to get back into the game.
"There was a feeling we weren't done yet," said Schenn.
Versteeg scored power-play goals 59 seconds apart while manning the point on two 5-on-3s before Grabovski and Kulemin also converted with a man advantage for Toronto (6-8-3). The Leafs had scored just three power-play goals in the previous eight games.
J.P. Dumont, Jordin Tootoo
, Erat also scored for Nashville (7-6-3).
"We gave them momentum by taking penalty after penalty after penalty," Preds coach Barry Trotz said. "When are we going to learn? You have a team down and out, you have them on the floor gasping for air and you let them off the mat. We stopped working, we stopped skating and therefore you take penalties.
"We deserved exactly what we got in the end."
Added veteran forward Steve Sullivan: "We had them right where we wanted them -- a fragile team down on the ropes and we didn't take care of business."
Giguere pulled himself from the game shortly after sliding across his crease to deny Cal O'Reilly
on a golden opportunity in the final period. He has a history of groin and hip problems, and said he didn't want to be selfish and play at less than 100 per cent.
In came backup Jonas Gustavsson
, who made six saves in a little over 13 minutes of work.
"It was a different situation, but you can't think so much," said Gustavsson. "You just have to try to get warm and get right into it."
There was a noticeable feeling of relief in the Maple Leafs dressing room after the game. The losing streak had been weighing heavily on the team -- perhaps even more so than players had been acknowledging.
"That was a long three weeks," MacArthur said.
Material from wire services was used in this report.