This isn’t an April Fool’s joke: David Clarkson scored on a breakaway.
The much-maligned player, whose exorbitant free agent contract has been the target of scathing criticism, received a breakout pass from Mason Raymond and beat Calgary goalie Karri Ramo for the game-winning tally in the Leafs’ 3-2 win at Air Canada Centre Tuesday. It was just Clarkson’s fifth marker of the year, or as one Twitter user put into perspective, “he is no longer tied with (Flames enforcer) Brian McGrattann.”
The victory halted Toronto’s horrific eight-game losing slide, preserving the still faint glimmer of hope that the team may salvage its season. A regulation loss by Washington and an overtime loss by Columbus aided the Leafs’ cause.
In a somewhat lacklustre outing played by both sides, the Leafs had goals from a trio of unlikely sources. After a scoreless first period, Jay McClement accepted a terrific feed from Cody Franson from the corner to beat Ramo for his first tally in 18 games.
Clarkson’s third period goal was preceded by Dave Bolland’s fluke shot that Calgary defenceman T.J. Brodie accidentally kicked into his own net. McClement, Bolland and Clarkson entered Tuesday’s game with a combined 14 goals on the year.
“It’s a huge boost,” Bolland said. “It’s never fun losing every night. It’s never fun in the room or anywhere, being around town.”
Scoring Calgary’s first goal was former Leaf Matt Stajan, who was sent in on a breakaway of his own after Toronto defenders Franson and Jake Gardiner parted like the Red Sea.
“It’s nice to score, but you want to win the game,” said Stajan, a veteran of 445 games in a Leafs uniform for seven seasons. “We gave up three rush chances today on turnovers, and that’s why they beat us.”
The Leafs triumph occurred uncharacteristically when the top line of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak was held off the scoresheet. Kessel can be excused somewhat for a lack of production, as his mere presence in the game after being hit with a puck on three different occasions was remarkable. After the second such misfortune in the first period, a frustrated Kessel skated to the bench, breaking his stick in anger.
“I don’t react to those things because it usually causes negativity, and that’s when confrontations start,” coach Randy Carlyle said.
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