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Canadian Press
12/5/2006 10:26:38 PM


TORONTO (CP) - Toronto-raised Glen Metropolit, back in the NHL after three years in Europe, sparked an Atlanta rally that lifted the Thrashers from a two-goal, third-period deficit to a 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

Darcy Tucker and Mike Peca had Toronto up 2-0 in the first period and, after a scoreless second, Metropolit scored and then set up Vyacheslav Kozlov for two goals. Marian Hossa added a breakaway goal and Ilya Kovalchuk put in an empty-netter with 56 seconds left to complete the onslaught, earning Atlanta a fifth straight win and sent the Leafs to a fifth straight defeat.

Boos rained down on the Leafs as the final seconds evaporated.

The Ottawa Senators moved ahead of Toronto into third place in the Northeast Division with a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.

The Leafs play in Boston on Thursday and in Detroit on Saturday.

Tucker opened the scoring with his 17th goal, and league-leading 12th on the power play, at 8:41 of the first period. Bobby Holik had taken a slashing penalty at 8:30. Tucker swept in a cross-crease pass from Jeff O'Neill.

Leafs fans among the 19,507 in Air Canada Centre - just about everybody other than a vocal group yelling encouragement to Metropolit - had reason for optimism: Toronto was 9-2-1 when scoring first in its previous 28 games.

Peca made it 2-0 at 19:44 when he planted the puck in the far top corner of the net with a wrist shot from the circle to the right of Johan Hedberg, who got his first start since Nov. 22, while No. 1 goaltender Kari Lehtonen lounged on the end of the Atlanta bench.

The Leafs had an 8-0-1 mark when leading after 20 minutes so there was no reason to expect a collapse.

Atlanta failed to score during three consecutive Toronto penalties - two to Hal Gill - in the opening eight minutes of the middle period. Andrew Raycroft made huge saves on point-blank shots by Jon Sim and Kozlov - the closest anybody came to scoring in the second period.

The Leafs were being outshot but, the way Raycroft was playing, a win seemed probable given that the Leafs were 10-0-3 when leading after two periods.

Metropolit's goal on a power play 3:56 into the third period started the Thrashers rally. He deflected in a long shot by Greg de Vries with Ian White off for delay of game - his second consecutive penalty for lifting the puck into the seats in his own end.

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I don't like how they're trying to use penalties as an excuse (though it could show this team's lack of discipline).

One could give a legitimate arguement to the case, but one could also point out that 8 of the 11 penalties were taken were in the 2nd Period. Atlanta didn't capitalize on anything until the 3rd, when they got their 1st on yet another Powerplay.

Hal Gill said:
"He made some huge saves for us. We let him down in the third."
Finally. Someone willing to own up. They blew it, plain and simple.

Michael Peca said:
"We're lacking quite a bit of a killer instinct. It seems we give up one goal and we're just waiting for the roof to blow off. I don't know if they had more energy or what (in the third period). The bottom line is that it's a disgrace on our side."
Clearly Mike Peca gets it, but what about the rest of the team?

Outshot 29-10 after 2?! Whatever happened to the "Shoot, shoot, shoot" strategy they had going for them before? Obviously this team is way off their game... again.
 
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