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Siegel: Leafs' Gustavsson running with opportunity

Jonas Siegel

1/8/2012 11:22:50 AM

TORONTO – Johan Franzen was in the slot with an opportunity to tie the game, the clock ticking down to its very last seconds at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
 
"That one chance with about 40 seconds to go made my heart stop," Ron Wilson said, "but the Monster came up big. In a situation like this you need your goalie to have a great game. He should've been the first star to be honest with you."
 
Jonas Gustavsson made 37 saves, preserving a 4-3 victory with a game-saving stop on Franzen as he and the Leafs hung on for their third consecutive win after blowing a 3-0 first period lead.
 
"You know it's just a few seconds left and you don't really think," Gustavsson said, "you just act out there. I was fortunate enough to stop that one."
 
The 27-year-old has now picked up victories in eight of his last 10 starts (8-2-0) with numbers that speak to his success, including a 2.49 goals against average and .922 save percentage. James Reimer was given every opportunity to reclaim control of his number one job upon returning from injury, but struggled to achieve any semblance of consistency, yielding three or more goals in eight of his 11 starts (3-4-3).
 
Gustavsson meanwhile, has simply won when given the chance.
 
"...as long as he's winning he's going to keep playing," Wilson proclaimed earlier in the week, but you could argue that Gustavsson has earned more than that. Perhaps some rope to run with as the starter. His yearly numbers are far from spectacular (3.07 goals against average, .903 save percentage), but he's won more often than not (12-7-0) and for the Leafs in a crowded Eastern Conference playoff race, that's all that matters.
 
Five Points
 
1. The Leafs built up a three-goal lead in less than 12 minutes on goals from Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Dave Steckel. But as expected the Wings came firing back with a dominant second period, scoring twice and outshooting the Leafs 14-2. "We gave them too much ice and when they get that they're one of the best teams in the league," Carl Gunnarsson said. "We can't do that, play on our heels and not be aggressive. We gave them way too much in the second and we're just lucky they didn't score more."
 
"Second period we weren't quite skating the way we should," Wilson added. "We were on our heels almost the whole period, never really got a chance to forecheck, turned a lot of pucks over. It was partly us, but it was a lot Detroit. They were coming hard. You see what kind of a team they are when they're playing like that."
 
2. Kessel notched his team-leading 24th goal of the year to open the scoring on a penalty shot, but it was Joffrey Lupul who played hero, firing a backhand past a sprawling Jimmy Howard to break a 3-3 tie. Both players also added helpers in the win. "We were able to bury a couple goals, but we gave up a couple," Kessel said. "We've got to shore up the defensive side of the puck a little more." Alongside Tim Connolly, the Leafs top line was on the ice for the Red Wings second and third goals, outmanoeuvered by Detroit's top unit of Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and the aforementioned Franzen.
 
3. Kessel has scored in four straight games and is riding a season-long eight-game point streak (five goals, four assists). The 24-year-old sits a point back of Henrik Sedin (49 points) for the overall scoring lead. Lupul is tied for third with 47 points.
 
4. Phaneuf fired a laser for his seventh goal of the year on a powerplay. The 26-year-old was able to suit up despite a massive bit of swelling on his left check, the remains of a puck to the face two nights earlier. "Once I knew nothing was broken I knew I was going to play," he said. Phaneuf opted against wearing a full shield. "I tried a full one in the morning and I couldn't see the puck well enough with it. I thought it would hinder me more than help me."
 
5. At the 41-game mark, Phaneuf has seven goals and 28 points, nearly matching his totals from a 66-game campaign last year – eight goals, 30 points. The Leaf captain sits in sole possession of sixth among all defencemen in scoring.
 
Bonus Points
 
Mike Komisarek and Mike Brown returned from lengthy stints on the IR. Komisarek played nearly 22 minutes in his first game since November 17 (broken arm), while Brown logged over 12 minutes on the fourth line...For the third consecutive game the Leafs were perfect on the penalty kill, halting the Wings in their only opportunity...The Leafs have taken a single penalty in two straight...Luke Schenn played a team-low 11:55, totalling just two shifts in the third...Steckel has seven goals this season and zero assists...Gunnarsson led the Leafs in ice-time at 25:38, logging a team-high 10:33 in the final frame...Clarke MacArthur had a seven-game point streak snapped...The Leaf power play has scored in four straight and six of the last seven games (7-25).