Leafs Look To End Skid Against Canucks
Friday, 02.17.2012 / 1:10 PM
NHL.comMAPLE LEAFS (29-23-6) at CANUCKS (36-15-6)
TV: NHLN-US (HD), CBC
Toronto 5-4-1; Vancouver 8-0-2
Second and final meeting. Vancouver recorded a 5-3 win on Dec. 17 in Toronto, with five different players scoring goals. Alexandre Burrows and Chris Higgins each scored and added an assist for the Canucks. Tyler Bozak
had a hand in all three goals for the Maple Leafs, scoring once and setting up the others.
Vancouver will be looking to make it a dozen games in a row with at least one point, as the Canucks enter on an 8-0-3 run. In fact, dating back to the start of the new year they've come away from a game completely empty just twice (12-2-4). Meanwhile, the visiting Maple Leafs are concerned with maintaining their hold on the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
This is the finale of a three-game road trip for Toronto through western Canada. The Maple Leafs had lost four in a row heading into Wednesday night's game in Edmonton, bringing them back to the pack in the East, but they halted the slide with a 4-3 overtime win as Tim Connolly
scored 1:39 into the extra period. The Leafs jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals by Joffrey Lupul
and Matt Lombardi in the opening 98 seconds, but the Oilers tied it up and rallied a second time after Jake Gardiner
's power-play goal in the third.
"That was a huge win for us," Gardiner said. "You don't lose four games in a row all that often and when you do it's not a great feeling. That fifth game means a lot and I'm happy we got it."
Seven more scoreless minutes was all that separated Vancouver from another game going to overtime when Colorado visited on Wednesday. Seven of the Canucks' previous eight games were decided either in OT or the shootout, and this one seemed like it would be no different. Jannik Hansen changed that when he broke a 1-1 tie with 6:29 remaining, and Burrows made sure there would be no late rally by the Avalanche by adding an empty-netter for a 3-1 victory. Roberto Luongo improved to 6-0-3 in his last nine starts by making 29 saves.
"After the second (period) I was already getting mentally ready for the shootout," said Luongo, whose previous six starts went beyond 60 minutes. "I was thinking about the shooters, the whole thing, but it was nice to get one there in regulation."
Lupul has 3 goals and 6 assists in the Maple Leafs' last seven games. … David Booth has scored in three straight games for the Canucks and has 3 goals and 1 assist during a four-game points streak.
Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson
(ankle) is on injured reserve. … Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard (headaches/neck) and forward Dale Weise (facial lacerations/foot) have each missed the last four games. Forward Andrew Ebbett (collarbone) is on injured reserve.
Gardiner's power-play goal was the first of his career and he skated 24:18 in Wednesday's game, just seven seconds less than Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf
, who led all players. … Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa recorded an assist and a plus-3 rating in 25:01 of ice time when these teams met in December.
The Vancouver Sun poked fun at Leafs Nation on the eve of Toronto's arrival in town, noting that not only have the Canucks won nine consecutive meetings between the teams since 2003, they also have the only three Ontario natives who will suit up for this game -- Cody Hodgson and Manny Malhotra are from Toronto, while Bieksa hails from Hamilton.
"I think there might be a couple of people left in the family who are Leaf fans when we're not playing them," Bieksa told the paper. "But there is no grey area there. When we play the Leafs, it's Canucks all the way."