nhl

Toskala, Leafs stonewall Predators

Vesa Toskala

Vesa Toskala

12/4/2007 11:31:55 PM

TORONTO - Wade Belak couldn't remember when he last scored or who it was against, but he'll never forget the goal he got to help the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 on Tuesday night.

The six-foot-five hulk is better known for his willingness to drop the gloves than for his playmaking attributes.

"I was under the age of 30 anyways," was the 31-year-old native of Saskatoon's first response when asked if he could recalled his previous goal. "God, I don't know when it was.

"I think Stavro was still the owner. We had that lockout, too, that screwed everything up."

To be precise, Belak's previous NHL goal was scored on Dec. 20, 2003. Somebody wanted to know where it happened.


 

"I think it was in New Jersey, wasn't it?" Belak responded.

Nope, it was at home versus Montreal.

"The Montreal Maroons," offered a cheeky scribe.

Belak just grinned.

The win was Toronto's third in a row and, with seven points from their last four games, the Leafs jumped past the idle Islanders and into eighth place in the East.

Belak raised his arms in jubiliation while taking a curtain call. He was the third star - goalie Vesa Toskala was first star and captain Mats Sundin was second star - and it was his first three-star selection since joining the Leafs in February 2001.

"It's always nice when they recognize you like that," said Belak. "It was appreciated.

"I really enjoyed that. What do we get for it? It's Molson, right? Case of beer maybe."   The brewery sponsors the monthly three-star competition that results in a Leaf getting a cheque that goes to a charity in his name.

The Leafs got all the bounces and great goaltending from Toskala to win despite being outshot 35-15.

"He stole the show," said Nashville captain Jason Arnott, who had 12 shots on Toskala. "He played exceptionally well.

"We were on the wrong end of the bounces."

Nik Antropov scored 28 seconds into the game when a long shot struck a Nashville stick and took a 90-degree carom that set him up in front of a net vacated by Chris Mason to cut an angle on the initial shot.

"They fed off the crowd early and came out flying in the first," said Nashville defenceman Shea Weber.

Matt Stajan had his back to the net when he took a desperate backhand swing at the puck, and it went in 1:34 of the second period.

Then it was Belak's turn. Chad Kilger blasted a long shot that struck Nashville defenceman Greg Zanon on a shoulder and knocked him down. The puck slid to Belak for an easy slider into the open side of the net at 2:48 of the third period.

"It was kind of surreal," said Belak. "It hit the guy and I put it in the back door.

"I just kind of tapped it in. It happened so quick. I'm glad it's over. Bob McGill's record is safe."

Belak had gone 143 games without an NHL goal.

"I passed Aki Berg last year so I knew it was a long way from beating Bob McGill - probably another 100 games maybe," said Belak.

Belak was quick to correct anybody who might have thought he hadn't scored at all in four years. He got three while playing 20 games for the Coventry Blaze in England during the lockout.

But his NHL drought continued.

"I had pretty much given up on scoring," he said. "I've been trying to keep them out of our net."

Belak said that he was challenged to a fight by Darcy Hordichuk just before his goal.

"He called me out and I was like, `No,' and right after that we scored. I'm glad I didn't (fight)."

Weber's shot through the legs of three players ruined Toskala's shutout bid with 5:55 left. The Finnish netminder was totally screened, and that was the only way the Predators could beat him on this night.

Coach Paul Maurice has given Toskala the goaltending ball and he's running with it. The heavy workload of late agrees with him.

"Just playing," he said when asked why he's been so sharp. "That's the biggest and most simple reason.

"When you get the ice time, you start to feel comfortable."

Good goaltending isn't the only reason for the Leafs' resurgence, said Darcy Tucker.

"I don't think you can just point to one area," he said. "As a team, we're playing a lot better defensively.

"I know Vesa played unbelievable in the third period when we didn't forecheck as well as we probably should have but, on the whole, we've played better as a team.

"Sometimes it takes a little bit of adversity to understand what it takes to win in this league. As a team, we're playing a lot better."

Tucker recalled that Belak wore No. 2 back in 2003 rather than the 3 Belak now sports.

"That was great," he said of the goal. "That's what builds team chemistry.

"The guys are thrilled for him. I haven't seen our bench that ecstatic in a long time."

Belak's goal was his eighth in 407 NHL games. He came out for this next shift and drilled Marty Gelinas, and the Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,400 loved it.  Belak has been the consummate team player. He doesn't grumble when he's a healthy scratch. He sat out nine in a row before this four-game undefeated run. What he did was concentrate on being ready when he was needed, and he's come through with flying colours.   Arnott was so frustrated by Toskala in the third period that after one larcenous save he turned and stared at the Finn.

"I was like, `What do I have to do to get a break?' He just laughed."

Arnott got another wonderful chance 90 seconds later, and Toskala again stopped him.

"If he doesn't make those saves, we're right there in the game," said coach Barry Trotz.

The Predators didn't like facing Toskala previously.

"We played against him in the playoffs when he was in San Jose and he's a good goalie, he's proven that," said Weber.   

Notes: On power plays, Nashville was 0-for-5 and Toronto was 0-for-4 . . . The Leafs hadn't had this few shots since taking 18 during a 3-0 win over Ottawa on Nov. 17 . . . Sundin's assist on Antropov's goal extended his record home-ice points streak from the start of the season to 16 . . . D Pavel Kubina missed a 10th game since hurting a knee Nov. 13 but hopes to be in the lineup against the Rangers in New York on Thursday . . . C Jiri Tlusty missed a fifth game since bruising a collarbone Nov. 23 . . . Nashville forward Scott Nichol sat out to start a five-game league suspension for his cross-check to the face of Montreal defenceman Patrice Brisebois last Saturday . . . Nashville, coming off wins in Ottawa and Montreal, had its previous seven games decided by one goal.






NO. AUTHOR MESSAGE
1stefy71BELAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ...
2Uchibenkeigreat game for the leafs and especially toscala. ...
3Clifford42 I'll take the win but I'm glad we don't play Nas ...
4the_fool1the boys are back into town ...
5habib36Great :S Does this mean JFJ and Dick Peddie get pr ...
6Leaf_Invasion07Go leafs go, Go Belak, Go Toskala, you guys are th ...
7isinggoleafsgoleafs are playing great but they would be even bet ...
8senatorsucksVesa needs to be played more. Finally the goaltend ...
9HabsFanUSA15 shots & a win?? Damn, the Habs had 16 shots ...
10Joe_19_SakicBELAK!!!!!!!!! what a way to have the game end. Ve ...
11f-solidGreat game by the leafs it was a bit lucky but the ...
12zer0pain3 in a row, leafs finally playing good, beat the t ...
13el_scorchoBring on you tired old parade comments all you Lea ...
14chappie50I think this team may have finally woke up..Toskal ...
15fangsofbeautyThat was a nice game Congrats leafs and nice goal ...
16don_conlol! BELAK SCORED!!! wow... ...
17AGreenGood showing especially from Toskala. Happy for Be ...
18CB4MVPWell we need to give the Leaf haters something to ...
19el_scorchoSticking it to the team that just rubbed out your ...
20killer4ireGoalie steals a game thats a throwback to old time ...
21IBeL13fWay to go Leafs! I didn't see the game, but it sou ...
22leafsforever13WADE BELAK is a monster!!!! Leave him in the lineu ...
23blackwaterxAll you Leaf haters take the night off, yeah the w ...
24el_scorchoMost Valuable Belak ...
25b_mccarthy81are you watching in ottawa?? You have all the tal ...
26johndukegreat game need everyone showing up like they did ...
27myleafs67where are all of the ottawa senators fans who have ...
28Blue13THE CREAM IS RISING. I think we can all say it the ...
29Steve935Christmas has come early Leafs win again montreal ...
30joeyhackA win vs a weak Nashville team. hooray!!!! Let L ...
31ocallaghanmOttawa fans - nothing to say? Usually you guys ha ...
32DeafLeafFanWell we won but tomorrow morning we gotta work on ...
33[WITH_TEETH]Nashville got dominated. Just ... dominated. ...
34l1pointnoneI always love Belak even when he doesn't score but ...
35leafs011Good game. Although it seemed like the leafs we ...
36troy2slickWhile they were badly outshot, great goaltending a ...
37radiodjGreat game by Toskala especially as the Leafs were ...
38TheMike4nice to see the leafs playing good hockey right no ...
39bleedingbluWay to go boys!! Vesa played a spectacular game... ...
40leaf_fan17Toskala stonewalled the Preds, forget the leafs. B ...
41muddgoblinThis is great. As a leaf hater, everything is good ...
42#1LeafFan1Leafs looked a little sluggish during the third pe ...
43lanevoIf toskala plays like this for at least 65 games, ...
44aLeafer4LifeGo Belak! They outshot us but all I know is we bea ...
45TheMike4I think everyone here needs to take a moment and t ...
46xtr3mistSo does this mean you guys are not going to drop T ...
47adas23First goal in FOUR years... must feel nice!!!!! ...
48habs-beens-suxThis is exactly what the leafs need a goalie that ...
49avistaTo be honest, outside of a few, especially Toskala ...
50tucker40Nice game - too bad tho - Been a leaf fan for 40 y ...
51CaptainMazdaAll Toskala, all the time. Although thanks to Kabe ...
52MrCHILLIThe universe does have a way of balancing out, eh? ...
53fletchbabyBelak for mayor! on pace for 3 goal season! ...
54Straight_ShooterWhy is Wade Belak not playing all 5 positions on t ...
55tmystroTOSKALAAAAA!!!!!!! WOW! He deserved the shutout to ...
56mrlu2uFirst goal in 4 YEARs?!!!!!!!people have been fire ...
57robbuoWell, it's nice to see 3 in a row, that Pred team ...
58martiniNice to see the wins... But now we will have to p ...
59faraazall i can say is...welcome to THE VESA TOSKALA SHO ...
60Grinder14Belak forgot what to do with his hands when he sco ...
61bsc98Nice to see a decent goalie between the pipes. Guy ...
62HARD_HARD_LEAFforget these wins, FIRE JFJ AND PEDDIE... 3 wins i ...
63LeafsXJaysDieHardFanDANG! Belak. Thats a Hon Candidate right there. I ...
64spec3I repeat...the Leafs will go as far as Toskala tak ...
65lifelongleaffanThe Leafs were extremely lucky tonight. 35 shots ...
66adnanhoqueI stand by the chant: "LETS GO RAPTORS...LOSE LEAF ...
67runesoldierPeddie and JFJ still need to go. the front office ...
68S-T-KToskala played the game of the year for goaltender ...
69officialjudgeWow, I'm shocked. I didn't think MLSE could not sc ...
70vernsaysleafsrule35 shots, thank god Toskala was in the net...I jus ...
71RepofabIt sure is nice to see the guys play well and to w ...
72rederikMY DAUGHTER, THE GOOD LUCK CHARM. My 9-year-old ...
73iforparryA true fan doesn't quit supporting...WIN OR LOSE!! ...
74raylovellYou call getting outshot 35-18 good hockey. Thats ...
75BathgateForPMYeah, there's just always someone dying to talk ab ...
76hardpenin the montreal game leafs out shot them and lost. ...
77LeafspoundSensIt's nice to see what a relatively healthy Leafs t ...
78truebluefanLooks like Toronto is starting to enjoy playing th ...
79beeblebroxBelak was signed by Pat Quinn, right? Fire JFJ! ...
80rootabagaYou can't say that the leafs dominated this game - ...
81revaudFinally our goalie steals one. We need that more o ...
82hubber1Great game by the Leafs! Everyone quit posting ...
83HabstilidieNice win, it's good to see some canadian teams pla ...
84northerntwist1i am really hoping all sens & habs fans just t ...
85bradwhetjfj must still go fire his a$$ and clean housem s ...
86vvv_tsnOutshot 36-15 - and quote from tucker "we're playi ...
87redwingsforever85Toskala was the key to this game leafheads. I did ...
88stefm1970Thats great to see Toskala play good hockey. Go Le ...
89skullmasterGood game boys, I was a little nervous heading int ...
90lindbergh31Wow, last week Leaf fans wanted to hang JFJ and Pe ...
91one8oneHow can they be happy being out shot 35 to 15?? Th ...
92BleedBlackandGoldSo...does this mean that nobody wants JFJ and all ...
93fireJFJnowGood effort by the leafs but they still to shake u ...
94goaliesaresexySo all you gotta do is threaten management and yo ...
95lollissLets beat the Rangers and keep this steak alive. ...
96WeBeLeafLeafs are looking good right now, lets hope it con ...
97matylewiczoh yesss! Even Belak is scoring now....I cant even ...
98zabookNashville got dominated? They outshot the Leafs 35 ...
99Leesince nashville played Toskala in the playoffs las ...
100SchatzismydogI still want JFJ's head! ...
101poolwreckerSundin! Sundin! Sundin! Can leafs fans please star ...
102domenicguerraI'm happy the Leaves started to win. Then the tea ...
103AvalancheWarningJFJ still needs to be fired NOW!!! The Leafs are ...
104tom370I have to laugh at people. The leafs are great no ...
10510habs103 wins in a row, I guess all the huffing and puffi ...
106ibanez_joeand now all is well in Leafland... JFJ is a great ...
107rray200I still say fire JFJ and Maurice. This team is st ...
108JohnnySpeedBelak plays = Leafs win.... Leafs Trap=Leafs win.. ...
109whiteswan68Way to go Belak.Very happy for you. ...
110shuffmanI listened to the game last night via the internet ...
111TrueBlueWay to go Leafs! A well played gamer overall. Ni ...
112lucyfurHope nobody breaks their ankles jumping back on th ...
113sucosamI do have to laugh at Sens fans who poke fun at To ...
114hockey=canadaOk, NO PARADE! BUT let's take our finger off the ...
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