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game recap

Three Straight Wins For Leafs

Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 10:00 PM

The Canadian Press

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Three Straight Wins For Leafs
Detroit Red Wings 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 4
Three Stars of the Game
Joffrey Lupul
1st
G: 1Shots: 2
A: 1Hits: 1
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 0TOI: 16:42
Phil Kessel
2nd
G: 1Shots: 3
A: 1Hits: 0
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 1TOI: 16:41
Pavel Datsyuk
3rd
Pavel Datsyuk
G: 0Shots: 2
A: 2Hits: 1
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 2TOI: 20:24




TORONTO -- With 41 games down and 41 to go, the Toronto Maple Leafs are exactly where they want to be.
  THREE STAR SELECTIONS

1st Star
Joffrey Lupul
G A P +/- Shots
1 1 2 E 2
2nd Star
Phil Kessel
G A P +/- Shots
1 1 2 +1 3
3rd Star
  Pavel Datsyuk
G A P +/- Shots
0 2 2 +2 2

Joffrey Lupul continued his breakout season by taking advantage of a rare Red Wings turnover, collecting the puck behind the goal and outwaiting Jimmy Howard to save the Maple Leafs from a three-goal collapse on Saturday.

As a result, they skated away with a 4-3 victory over Detroit and a reminder of how razor-thin the margin for error is in the NHL these days. It was the third straight victory for Toronto to kick off an important stretch of games and kept the team in playoff position heading to the second half of the season.

``This is where the stakes kind of go up,'' said Lupul. ``This is the more fun part of the year. This is where you want to play your best hockey.

``We've put our team in the position where we can be a playoff team, but all we've done right now is set ourselves up.''

A look at the standings shows they can't afford to slip at all if they want to end the NHL's second-longest playoff drought. Toronto is tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference but remains among a cluster of seven teams separated by just four points.

That's what made Saturday's victory over Detroit so big, especially after the Leafs built a 3-0 lead in the first period and let it slip away.

``I think we handled it really good,'' said goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who made 37 saves. ``(Lupul) came up with a really big goal and we kept battling the whole game.''
  BY THE NUMBERS

21-15-5 Leafs' record this season at the halfway mark. Last season at this point they were 17-20-4.
276-275-93 All-time record against Detorit.
34 Hits for the Leafs.
7 Points for Joffrey Lupul in the last three games.
33 Times this season that Lupul and Phil Kessel have recorded a point.

The winner came less than three minutes after Detroit had tied it 3-3. Everything appeared to be heading in the wrong direction when Lupul stole the puck from Henrik Zetterberg and scored his 19th goal of the season.

From there, Gustavsson guided the team home and preserved the victory with a big glove save on Johan Franzen in the final minute.

``That one chance with about 40 seconds to go made my heart stop,'' said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. ``But the Monster came up big.''

Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and David Steckel also scored for Toronto (21-15-5), which kicks off a home-and-home with Buffalo on Tuesday.

Todd Bertuzzi, Niklas Kronwall and Jiri Hudler replied for Detroit (25-14-1).

The Red Wings quickly boarded a flight for Chicago, where they face the Blackhawks in a big game Sunday, and weren't very happy with their performance.

``That was un-Red Wing-like,'' said coach Mike Babcock. ``You can't win every night in the league playing like that.''
  LEAFS REMARKS

Ron Wilson on Jonas Gustavsson and the Leafs climbing up the standings:

"That one chance with about 40 seconds to go made my heart stop but the Monster came up big. In a situation like this you need your goalie to have a great game and he should have been the First Star to be honest with you ... we passed Pittsburgh tonight and Ottawa's a point ahead of us, I think they've played one more game, but this is going to be a dogfight right to the end where teams are going to be sliding two or three places up, two or three places every night so it's going to be fun."


There was plenty of buzz around Air Canada Centre with a number of Red Wings fans turning up for the only meeting between the Original Six teams this season. The Leafs were fortunate that it was played in their building since Detroit has been virtually unbeatable at Joe Louis Arena and a pedestrian 10-12-0 away from it.

The odds were tilted more in the Leafs' favour after a dream start, which saw Kessel convert a penalty shot at 4:30 before Phaneuf hammered home a power-play goal at 8:19. The exuberant Leafs captain was an unlikely contributor after taking a puck in the cheek on Thursday and having to play with a long visor to cover the big lump on his face.

``Once I knew nothing was broken, I knew I was going to play,'' said Phaneuf.

After Steckel scored to make it 3-0, Babcock called a timeout to try and wake up his players. Even though they responded with a solid effort from that point on, he felt the final result was just.

``We had a great opportunity,'' he said. ``But the hockey gods treat you right _ you don't start on time you don't win that often in this league. We weren't good enough.''

That doesn't mask the fact the Leafs were fortunate to come out on top after being outshot 40-18.

But the team seems to have developed a resilient spirit - ``we're a group that definitely does not quit,'' said Phaneuf - something that gave Gustavsson confidence even after he allowed Hudler to tie it early in the third period. During the first half of the season, he's learned to trust his teammates.

``I always believe in our team,'' said Gustavsson. ``They showed me so many times they score a lot of goals. You just have to keep believing.''

Notes: Lupul is tied for fourth in NHL scoring with 47 points. ... With defenceman Mike Komisarek returning to Toronto's lineup for the first time since Nov. 17, Jake Gardiner was a healthy scratch. ... Mike Brown also returned from injury for the Leafs. ... Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm sat out for Detroit with groin strains. ... Howard remains stuck on 99 career NHL victories. ... Announced attendance was 19,536.


NEXT GAME:

Tuesday, January 10
  vs. Buffalo Sabres
  7 PM ET (Sportsnet, AM640)


The Leafs play the first of a home-and-home with their QEW rivals who have lost two straight and are just 2-3-2 in their last seven games.

The two meet again in the Queen City Friday. So far this season the two teams have split the first two games with each winning on home ice.






scoring summary
1st Period
04:30
TOR
PS - Phil Kessel (24) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE
1 - 0 TOR
08:19
TOR
PPG - Dion Phaneuf (7) Slapshot - ASST: NONE
2 - 0 TOR
11:36
TOR
David Steckel (7) Wrist shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (28), Phil Kessel (24)
3 - 0 TOR
2nd Period
06:46
DET
Todd Bertuzzi (6) Tip-in - ASST: Pavel Datsyuk (29), Johan Franzen (18)
3 - 1 TOR
15:49
DET
Niklas Kronwall (9) Backhand shot - ASST: Johan Franzen (19), Pavel Datsyuk (30)
3 - 2 TOR
3rd Period
04:32
DET
Jiri Hudler (12) Wrist shot - ASST: Brad Stuart (5), Henrik Zetterberg (22)
3 - 3 Tie
07:10
TOR
Joffrey Lupul (19) Backhand shot - ASST: NONE
4 - 3 TOR
penalty summary
1st Period
08:12
DET
Henrik Zetterberg  Holding the stick against  Carl Gunnarsson
2nd Period
00:42
TOR
Mikhail Grabovski  Hooking against  Todd Bertuzzi
3rd Period
NONE
goalie stats
Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard
24-10-1
SA: 18TOI: 58:44
Saves: 14EV: 14 - 17
PIM: 0PP: 0 - 1
SV%: .778SH: 0 - 0
Jonas Gustavsson
SA: 40TOI: 59:46
Saves: 37EV: 36 - 39
PIM: 0PP: 1 - 1
SV%: .925SH: 0 - 0
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