TORONTO (AP) -The Toronto Maple Leafs can only wonder how differently things might have turned out if Darcy Tucker had played this well all season.
The veteran winger scored his second goal of the game 3:39 into overtime on Saturday night to give the Maple Leafs a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins.
Perhaps no player better embodies the team's disappointing year than Tucker, who battled injuries early on and is just now rediscovering his scoring touch.
He admits that it's often been difficult to drive to the rink.
"I can't think back to a longer period of time when I struggled to produce," said Tucker, who has five goals in his past five games. "That was tough to go through ... It's great to score goals and you want to win hockey games and do it together as a group.
"It's tough reading the papers every day and knowing that we have let down a lot of people in different ways. That wears on you after awhile."
Tucker charged hard to the goal and tipped Alex Steen' pass by Tim Thomas.
Dominic Moore and Nik Antropov also scored for Toronto. Dennis Wideman, Glen Murray and Zdeno Chara replied for the Bruins.
Tucker converted a cross-crease pass from Mats Sundin at 14:18 of the final period during a 5-on-3 power play to tie it at 2.
Less than 2 minutes later, Tucker fooled Thomas by skating behind the goal but leaving the puck for Antropov, who scored his 20th of the season at 16:09.
The victory lifted the Leafs out of the Eastern Conference basement, but they're still nine points back of Boston for the last playoff spot.
In other words, it probably won't change the way things unfold ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline. The Maple Leafs have four games to play before then and it's very likely that the team will look a bit different afterwards.
|Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Darcy Tucker celebrates his third-period goal against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008, in Toronto. Tucker also scored the game-winner in overtime for a 4-3 win. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)
Tucker acknowledged that it's a tough time of year as the players wait to see what happens.
"When you're part of a hockey club and you have friends and people that you battle with ... it's difficult," he said.
The Maple Leafs seemingly had the victory in their hands but Chara tied it with 49.8 seconds to play in regulation. Goalie Vesa Toskala tried to grab the puck during a scramble, only to watch it fall at his feet and have Chara knock it in.
Boston had several good chances early and held a 9-1 advantage in shots when Murray opened the scoring at 5:48 of the first period.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said the game was lost during that opening 20 minutes.
"I thought in the first period we should've been able to establish a better lead than we did," he said. "We had some Grade A opportunities where we should've scored, two, three goals."
Moore tied the score at 10:32. The center managed to find the puck during a scramble in front of Thomas and flipped it over the sprawled goalie.
Toronto controlled much of the second period but Boston took a 2-1 lead to the dressing room after 40 minutes. Wideman scored at 18:36 on a power player by floating a long wrist shot past Toskala.
Notes: Toronto is 9-20 in one goal games this season ... Referee Bill McCreary was honored before working his 1,500th career NHL game ... The Leafs have sent forward Robbie Earl back to the AHL Marlies.