RETURN OF THE KESSEL

JP Nikota
October 15 2011 09:29PM

Like in their previous two starts, the Leafs took the first period to wake up, and quickly fell behind 2-0 to a hard-working Calgary Flames team. A defensive miscommunication between Nikolai Kulemin and John-Michael Liles, and a bad bounce off a Leafs' defenceman's skate both left Reimer with almost no chance.

Luckily for the Leafs, Calgary had some trouble staying out of the box. The Leafs never scored on the PP, but it definitely helped to keep the puck out of their end while they remembered how to play hockey.

Then, in the second period, Phil Kessel set Joffrey Lupul up with a pretty pass off the rush into the slot, and Lupul snapped a nice shot under the arm of Mikka Kipprusoff, who had a solid first period. Then, after a brilliant defensive play by Tyler Bozak, Carl Gunnarsson whisked a Kaberle-esque pass up to a streaking Kessel, who blasted around the remaining defender, and rifled a shot over the shoulder over Kipper to tie the game at two.

In the opening minute of the third, Kessel picked up his fifth goal in two games, and his eigth point in three games (!!!), and scored his second goal of the night. It's true that the shot went off Lee Stempniak's skate (HA!), but it counts all the same, and the Leafs held on to win.

For the last ten minutes of the third, the Leafs had some serious trouble getting out of their own zone, and one couldn't help but be reminded of the days of "to the line, but not out". Fortunately, this year features James "Mr. Mennonite Weekly Review" Reimer in net, and not Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Vesa Toskala.

Phil Kessel took a penalty for delay of game with 1:15 remaining to make this a nail-biter, but Dion Phaneuf & Co. did a good job clearing the puck, and Calgary never got properly set up.

The Good:

Phil Kessel: 2G, 1A
Joffrey Lupul: 1G
John-Michael Liles: Good work holding the zone - appropriate timed pinching. Got high-sticked, drew a 4:00 double-minor, and played after only missing one shift, with blood running down his face.
Matt Frattin: Rang two shots off the post. One in particular we could hear, but not see. What a shot.
Carl Gunnarsson: Beautiful pass to Kessel on the game-tying goal, and made a number of solid defensive plays.
Cody Franson: He played a very quiet 18:14, with 3:07 on the PP. He assisted on the winner.
David Stecket: Won faceoffs like a boss, and did well on the PK, which went 3/3 on the evening.

The Bad:
Luke Schenn: Finished the night a -2, and only played 13:54. He made a really boneheaded attempt to jump into the rush, and totally screwed up a 3-on-2 for the MGK line, and saw his minutes subsequently cut.
John-Michael Liles: He makes both these lists, because of the stupid miscue with Kulemin.
Nikolai Kulemin: His whole line looked off tonight - not awful, but not great - and his screw up on the opening goal puts him on the "bad" list
Matthew Lombardi: Again, not an awful night, but was relatively quiet

The "Ugly":
The Leafs' whole first period, and last 10 minutes of the third.

Box Score From NHL.com

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