Hossa, Lehtonen too much for Maple LeafsDec 1, 2006 - 2:46 AM
Hossa recorded his fifth career hat trick and Lehtonen posted his league-leading fourth shutout of the season as the Atlanta Thrashers cruised to a 5-0 victory over the Maple Leafs.
With four two-goal games already under his belt this campaign, Hossa gave Lehtonen all the support he needed during a power play just over 13 minutes into the contest. Following a scoreless second period, Hossa struck again at 1:46 of the third for a 2-0 lead.
"It was one of those nights when everything goes your way and the puck finds the back of the net," Hossa said. "I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates because they set me up very good tonight."
After Scott Mellanby and Brad Larsen tallied 14 seconds apart midway through the session, Hossa completed his first hat trick with Atlanta during another man advantage with 2:58 remaining.
"He could have had six or seven tonight," Toronto goaltender Andrew Raycroft said. "He was good."
En route to his seventh career shutout, Lehtonen turned aside 10 shots in the first period, seven in the second and 19 in the third. The 23-year-old Finn moved ahead of five other netminders for the league lead in blankings.
"For (40) minutes or so, it was a 1-0 game," Lehtonen said. "That's always tough for a goalie. One mistake and you're tied. But that was great at the end that we were able to get some goals and make it easier."
"Kari is playing well again," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "We did a good job of clearing up rebounds in front of him. He gave us the first saves. I felt we were solid in our own zone."
The triumph halted Atlanta's eight-game skid against Toronto.
"Before the game, it felt a little special," Lehtonen said. "Everybody knew we hadn't beaten them in a long time. I think that's why everybody was extra prepared and extra ready, and that was great to get this win."
"For whatever reason, we have not played well against them," Mellanby added. "We embarrassed ourselves a few times against them. Tonight's a big step for us. We have to go back into their building (Tuesday) and play well, and hopefully we can go in there and have a good game and show the Toronto fans we actually have a decent team because if you've watched us play in there the last couple of years, you wonder why we're where we're at. We've been that bad."
Vyacheslav Kozlov collected a career-high four assists and Mellanby set up a pair of goals for the Thrashers, who have won three straight to tie the franchise mark for most points in the month of November (17).
"We're on the same page more now and we're committed more to the defense," Hossa said. And the goalie's playing well, so we are clicking."
Raycroft made 22 saves for Toronto, which has scored just two goals during its three-game skid.
"We're not generating enough, we're not scoring enough to change even the tension of the game," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "It's all on our side right now."
"Anytime you lose three games in a row, it's frustrating," Toronto captain Mats Sundin added. "We have a lot of work to do. ... We have to be more desperate than we've been. When you get chances, you have to make sure you bear down."
With Sundin serving a hooking penalty, Hossa took a cross-crease pass from Mellanby alone on the right side of the net and fired it in with 6:52 left in the first for a 1-0 edge.
Early in the third, Hossa was left by himself in the slot as Jeff O'Neill went to cover Kozlov, who fed his open teammate for a two-goal advantage. Mellanby batted a cross-crease pass from Hossa past Raycroft during a power play at 12:20 and Larsen scored following a turnover shortly thereafter for a 4-0 bulge.
"That happens some nights," Raycroft said. "Some nights you'll play horrible and only give up one, and other nights you'll play all right and give up five. I worked hard and I felt pretty good, but they're a talented team. You give them time and space, they're going to make you pay for it."
Hossa completed his big night by knocking in his own rebound from the top of the crease for Atlanta's third power-play goal on seven attempts. It was the 20th goal of the season for Hossa, who moved ahead of Brendan Shanahan of the New York Rangers by three for the league lead.
"I felt we played three strong periods," Hartley said. "Our penalty killing was huge again. Our power play gave us three goals and Kari was real good when we needed him to be."
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