Maybe they’re not brain-dead after all.
Just 48 hours after one of their most lethargic efforts of the season, the Maple Leafs responded with a convincing 7-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions on Saturday night. A season-high 19,603 fans were on hand at Air Canada Centre to witness the shocking upset.
Toronto’s offence was sparked by unexpected sources. Jerry D’Amigo scored his first career NHL goal. Peter Holland scored twice, doubling his output for the entire season, while Nikolai Kulemin (pictured) also found the back of the net. That trio of bottom-six forwards have a combined salary cap hit of just over $4.5 million this season. Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel – each of whom make over $5 million a year – must have been feeling the pressure to contribute, responding in kind by combining for the Leafs’ last three goals to round out the scoring.
Forward Mason Raymond had four assists.
“You can’t see it, but I’m going crazy inside right now,” said D’Amigo to reporters after the game, reflecting on his milestone goal. “I’m all smiles.”
In what appears to be a recurring theme for the Leafs season, suspensions played a role in the lineup. Earlier in the day, David Clarkson was assessed a two-game ban for his hit to the head of St. Louis’ Vladimir Sobotka on Thursday. Meanwhile, captain Dion Phaneuf returned after sitting for two games for his boarding infraction on Boston’s Kevan Miller.
Phaneuf was credited with 3 hits, but his return was overshadowed by his accidental deflection of a centering pass by Patrick Kane past goaltender Jonathan Bernier while the Leafs were shorthanded by two men. Later in the game, a deflection off Phaneuf’s stick led to an apparent Chicago goal that was waved off due to a glove pass.
Just don’t go for the hat trick, Dion.
With the Leafs entrenched in their toughest part of their schedule, the victory halted a three-game losing skid while inflating the team’s spirits as they head to Pittsburgh for a Monday night matchup.
The contributions from their secondary scoring can’t be understated. As of December 4, the team led the NHL in percentage of goals scored by their top-7 leaders; not a good sign in a league where a balanced attack is crucial.
“I thought our hockey club responded the way they needed to respond,” said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. “They took responsibility for our actions, and that’s a good sign.”
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