The old cartoon reference may be lost on some folks, but if you saw the game, you’d have to agree, anyway. Jonas Gustavsson played his best game so far this season, and helped hold down the fort in the third so the Leafs could come away with a 4-3 win. Sure, he was beaten three times, but he was most definitely not to blame on any of the tallies tonight. On the first goal, Dion Phaneuf missed his man, on the second, Mike Komisarek missed his, and the third was a rocket of a shot from Evgeni Malkin that any goaltender would have been hard pressed to stop, even if it wasn’t a 5-on-3 penalty kill for the Leafs, with a heavy screen set up in front.
The Monster may not be a long-term answer in goal, but you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Tonight’s performance was full of highlight reel saves, and not because Gus was making acrobatic leaps to compensate for bad positioning. The Pens out-shot the Leafs 37-29, and goaltending was a key difference, as Brent Johnson started for the Pens.
Also worthy of praise and adoration was Phil Kessel’s performance tonight. With another goal and assist, he continues to lead the league in both categories. As CBC commentator Glenn Healy noted, he’s not going to be picked last at the NHL All-Star game this year.
Kessel scored the game-winning goal from a beautiful Tim Connolly feed – a beautiful rush that gives Leafs fans hope that these two can develop some chemistry.
Connolly also picked up his first goal as a Maple Leaf, banging home a rebound on the power play, which went 2/2 on the evening.
The Leafs’ penalty kill continues to be an issue, only going 2/4, although that one of those goals was at 5-on-3 softens the blow.
The Leafs’ fourth line of Mike Brown, Philippe Dupuis, and David Steckel had a good evening, as they were often matched with Evgeni Malkin’s line, and managed to carry the play well at 5-on-5. (As a side note, yes, Malkin had two points on the night, but both came with the man advantage.) It’s early, but a fourth line that doubles as an effective shut-down line could be wonderful.
Dion Phaneuf had a hot-and-cold game, missing his defensive assignment on the first goal, and pinching at a few inopportune moments, but also picked up two assists, and jumped into the rush effectively.
Matt Frattin had team-low 9:46 of ice time. He appears to have the strength, speed, and shot to stay in the big leagues, but he has yet to find the twine yet. He needs to learn to use his linemates better, as he is often stopped on a solo rush, and turns the puck over without getting a decent chance. He’ll get there.
One last note: Mats Sundin was in attendance tonight, and a nice standing ovation from the crowd – naturally. He also was adamant that Toronto is the best city in the world to play hockey in… so ‘nyeah’ to Vancouver.