for this game

Ponikarovsky, Toskala keep Maple Leafs rolling

Dec 15, 2007 - 5:17 AM
By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Vesa Toskala continues to sizzle for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Toskala made 24 saves for his second shutout of the season and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored two goals and set up another as the Maple Leafs cruised to a 4-0 victory Friday over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Nik Antropov collected three assists and captain Mats Sundin netted his team-leading 16th tally for Toronto, which has won six of its last seven games.

Toskala has been a main reason for the recent surge, allowing just 10 goals during the stretch. The 30-year-old Finn was brilliant in this one, turning aside six shots in both the first and third periods while stopping 12 in the second en route to his 10th career shutout.

"It is just a nice bonus," Toskala said of the blanking. "The two points mean so much more, especially to get the win early with this big (seven-game) road trip (now underway)."

"Vesa's been outstanding for us the last two or three weeks," Sundin said. "That's the main reason (we're winning). He made it look easy out there."

Not even Ilya Kovalchuk, the league's leading goal-scorer, could cool down the red-hot Toskala.

About seven minutes into the second period, the Russian superstar beat the Maple Leafs' defense down the left side of the ice for a breakaway before unleashing a slap shot from the left faceoff circle. But Toskala denied Kovalchuk, deflecting the shot with his blocker to keep the Thrashers off the scoreboard.

"I was hoping he would go there," said Toskala, who remember being beaten by Kovalchuk for the game-winner on a similar shot on October 23. "I knew that was one of his favorite shots. I was waiting."

Atlanta also had a chance in the final minutes of the first, but Todd White's one-timer from the high slot rattled off the left goalpost. Toskala was invincible thereafter as the Thrashers were shut out for the sixth time this season.

"We need to find a way to score," Atlanta defenseman Ken Klee said. "Kari (Lehtonen) is going to make big saves and bail us out, and we need to try to bail him out, too."

When the Maple Leafs were in Atlanta on November 29, the club was struggling both on and off the ice. They had dropped four straight games and seven of eight, and reports out of Canada were circulating that general manager John Ferguson wanted to fire coach Paul Maurice, while team president Richard Peddie, in turn, wanted to do the same to Ferguson.

But the puck finally started bouncing Toronto's way in that one as defenseman Andrew Wozniewski opened the scoring with a bizarre goal and Toskala turned aside 18 shots to help the Maple Leafs to a 4-2 victory.

The team has been on a roll ever since.

"We try not to worry about anything that's going on outside," Toskala said. "We went through some tough times. We've been really solid for the past two to three weeks now."

The Maple Leafs got on the board in this one thanks to a miscue by Lehtonen at 7:13 of the second period.

With the Thrashers on the power play, the Maple Leafs dumped the puck into Atlanta's zone, and Lehtonen came out of the crease to play the puck in the left corner. But the 24-year-old Finn partially fanned while attempting to wrap it around the net, allowing Boyd Devereaux to gain possession and tuck it in at the right goalpost for a shorthander.

"I thought I could get it out," Lehtonen said. "I didn't. It bounced a little bit. It was coming real fast. I just misplayed it. That's just about it."

Sundin doubled the lead just over three minutes later, when the 17-year veteran fired a sharp-angle shot from below the left faceoff circle past Lehtonen at 10:37.

It was the 539th tally of the 36-year-old Swede's career, putting him one behind Teemu Selanne for 26th place on the all-time list.

"It's not like I'm looking at that," said Sundin, who also is just five goals shy of tying Hall of Famer Maurice Richard for 24th. "I don't even look at the scoring race. I'm trying to win games. I'm very proud to be named in the same breath as some of those guys. At the same time, you have the day-to-day grind."

Ponikarovsky put the game out of reach late in the third with a pair of tallies. The Ukrainian beat Lehtonen high to the glove side with a wrister from the slot with 3:19 remaining before putting a shot from the left faceoff dot into a vacant net 80 seconds later as the goalie was out of position.

The goals were well-earned by Ponikarovsky, who received stitches in his tongue after a hard open-ice check by Atlanta captain Bobby Holik sent him to the ice early in the second period. Ponikarovsky believed he was the target of a cheap shot.

"I wasn't happy, to be honest with you," he said. "In my opinion, it was a clear hit to the head. The only thing is that I'm happy that I don't have a concussion and felt fine. You (just) stay in the game, stick your head up and keep going."

Lehtonen made 31 saves for the Thrashers, who have lost three straight.






  • 5
    roots
    OddyOh Added 5 roots

    Maple Leafs vs. ThrashersDec 14 10:28 PM


  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 0 2 2 4
    ATLANTA 0 0 0 0 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: TOR - (SH) BOYD DEVEREAUX 4 (UNASSISTED) 7:13
    TOR - MATS SUNDIN 16 (NIK ANTROPOV, ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY)
    10:37
    3RD PRD: TOR - ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY 10 (NIK ANTROPOV, TOMAS KABERLE)
    16:41
    TOR - ALEXEI PONIK

    Dec 14 9:56 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 4
    ATLANTA 0
    3RD PRD: TOR - ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY 11 (NIK ANTROPOV, MATS SUNDIN)
    18:01

    Maple Leafs vs. ThrashersDec 14 9:55 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 3
    ATLANTA 0
    3RD PRD: TOR - ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY 10 (NIK ANTROPOV, TOMAS KABERLE)
    16:41

    Maple Leafs vs. ThrashersDec 14 9:51 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 0 2 2
    ATLANTA 0 0 0 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: TOR - (SH) BOYD DEVEREAUX 4 (UNASSISTED) 7:13
    TOR - MATS SUNDIN 16 (NIK ANTROPOV, ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY)
    10:37
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TOR 8 14

    Dec 14 9:06 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 2
    ATLANTA 0
    2ND PRD: TOR - MATS SUNDIN 16 (NIK ANTROPOV, ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY)
    10:37

    Maple Leafs vs. ThrashersDec 14 8:51 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 1
    ATLANTA 0
    2ND PRD: TOR - (SH) BOYD DEVEREAUX 4 (UNASSISTED) 7:13

    Maple Leafs vs. ThrashersDec 14 8:42 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 0 0
    ATLANTA 0 0 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TOR 8 8
    ATL 6 6
    GOALIES: TOR - VESA TOSKALA
    ATL - KARI LEHTONEN

    Dec 14 8:13 PM