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Malone's OT goal spoils Kessel's return

by John Kreiser /
Mattias Ohlund gave Phil Kessel a rude greeting in his Maple Leafs debut. Ryan Malone spoiled the rest of the night for Kessel and his new teammates.

Malone swatted home an airborne puck 2:21 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 victory over Toronto on Tuesday night, disappointing the sellout crowd of 19,301 that had come to see Kessel's first game as a Leaf. Malone knocked in a shot that had bounced over goaltender Jonas Gustavsson moments after John Mitchell nearly won it for the Maple Leafs. The goal stood after a video review.

"We really met the challenge tonight," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "We killed five, six penalties in a row. Guys really willed (the win) and obviously (goalie Antero) Niittymaki played unbelievable for us."

Niittymaki made 40 saves -- 10 of them on Kessel. The speedy 22-year-old, acquired from Boston in a preseason trade that cost the Leafs two No. 1 picks, made his season debut after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He showed all the speed and offensive skills that attracted GM Brian Burke -- and also proved his shoulder was OK when he survived a thunderous open-ice hit from Ohlund at the Tampa Bay blue line late in the first period.

"I don't remember (ever) getting hit like that," Kessel said of the thunderous hit by Ohlund.

"I put myself in a bad situation to tell you the truth, I shouldn't have done that. Clean hit, he got me good."

Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Lightning (5-4-4), who won for the first time in six road games this season. Ian White's third-period goal was the lone tally for the Leafs (1-7-5), who've lost three consecutive games in OT and are 0-4-2 at Air Canada Centre.

"We have to persevere, we can't change what we're doing because we're right there knocking on the door," coach Ron Wilson said. "We've just got to find a way to knock the door completely down."

Lecavalier rammed home the rebound of Ohlund's blast from the left circle at 18:34 of the second period after Ohlund picked off Gustavsson's attempted wraparound -- the 12th time in 13 games that the Leafs have allowed the first goal.

White tied it 5:04 into the third period by beating Antero Niittymaki on the Leafs' seventh power play. They had wasted the first six, including a two-man advantage for 49 seconds.

The best news for the Leafs was that Kessel looked like the real deal -- someone who can give them some much-needed offense. He finished the night with 10 shots on goal, had seven others blocked and missed the net on two more.

"I had a ton of chances, let me tell you," Kessel said. "I've got to find some way to get some of those to go in. First game, got to get better. My job on this team is to score goals, and I've got to start doing that."

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