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Maple Leafs cap homestand with win against Flames

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs ended a successful five-game homestand with a hard-fought 4-1 win against the Calgary Flames at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

The Maple Leafs (15-9-3) will play a road game against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday before returning home for three games beginning Saturday against the Red Wings.

After losing 9-2 at home against the Nashville Predators Nov. 18, the Maple Leafs are 6-1-0 at Air Canada Centre. Nobody ever likes to lose a game, but when it serves as a wake-up call, it can be useful.

"I knew it couldn't get much worse than that," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "That was bad. You get thumped 9-2 at home there's not a lot of fun. I don't care what market you're in."

Since then, with the exception of a 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 4, the Maple Leafs have been very good. They completed this homestand 4-1-0.

Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau had a good scoring chance for Calgary at 10:37 of the first period, but after moving in alone, he was unable to beat goalie Jonathan Bernier with a deke.

The Maple Leafs scooped the rebound, raced into the Flames zone, and after left wing Joffrey Lupul threw the puck in front, Peter Holland scored his seventh goal of the season at 10:46. It is the second straight game Holland has scored.

The Maple Leafs made it 2-0 at 2:51 of the second period when Nazem Kadri's pinpoint pass to James van Riemsdyk in the slot was redirected past goalie Jonas Hiller. Calgary's David Jones was in the penalty box for high-sticking.

After being outshot 13-8 in the first period, the Maple Leafs outshot the Flames 13-4 in the second.

"The second period was one of the best periods we have played this season from a perspective of playing more of the style of hockey that is required for 60 minutes," Carlyle said. "Those are the things you try to capture and then give your team an opportunity [to] watch so they know this is the way we're going to have to do it on a more regular basis."

The Flames are at their best in the third period this season, outscoring the opposition 39-16 entering this game.

When the Maple Leafs were called for a too many men on the ice penalty, Calgary scored at 3:48 to make it 2-1 with Markus Granlund sending a high shot past Bernier after being sent in alone.

The Maple Leafs scored two empty-net goals, the first by Kessel at 19:20 and the other by Mike Santorelli at 19:56.

"We sat back," Carlyle said. "We were on our heels and we just threw the puck away and just started slapping it around. We didn't play the body at all. They were allowed the freedom to skate wherever they wanted and they had the puck for most of the third period."

Carlyle said there is a simple solution.

"We have to continue to skate," he said. "We are a skating club. What's happening is, the opposition is coming with a push and we know that is coming. We know their D-men are going to join the rush and they're going to take more chances than they normally would on the road. I'd like to see us play with the puck more. That is the disturbing thing for us as coaches. We didn't really have the puck. When we got it we slapped it away."

Calgary center Matt Stajan said the Flames weren't good enough in the second period.

"Their goalie made some big saves," Stajan said. "You've got to give credit where credit is due. They got a timely goal after he made a big save in the first period. We can't keep playing from behind and chasing the game in the third period. We got some good bounces early in the season and got some good results and wins, but it's hard to keep that up throughout the year. We've got to make sure we're starting off better and carrying that into the second period."

When the Vancouver Canucks lost 5-2 here Saturday, a number of their players said they felt they had enough chances to win. Bernier stoned them in that game too. The Flames also felt they could have gotten a better result.

"We could have won this game," Stajan said. "We're in every game. The Maple Leafs have great speed and great transition. The chances were there for us, but Bernier played a heck of a game and we couldn't get that second one by him."

The Flames (17-10-2) will play the Buffalo Sabres on the road Thursday.

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