Toronto Maple Leafs Honour Gilmour, Beat Pittsburgh Penguins

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Toronto Maple Leafs Honour Gilmour, Beat Pittsburgh Penguins

Toronto forward Jason Blake scored with less than ten minutes left in the third period to break a 4-4 tie to propel the Maple Leafs to an exciting 5-4 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Maple Leafs began the game without defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who broke his right hand in Denver on Thursday. The injury is expected to keep the nine-year veteran blue-liner out of the lineup for about a month. 

Ian White opened the scoring at 5.23 of the first period, backhanding a shot from the slot past Penguins net-minder Mathieu Garon, who was making his first start wth Pittsburgh since being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers.

Garon was traded to the Oilers for Penguins goalkeeper Dany Sabourin in a swap of back-ups.

Miroslav Satan, who rang a shot off the goal-post prior to the White goal, blasted one home on a two-on-one to tie the game at 9.03.  It appeared the shot deflected off the blade of White, before beating Leafs net-minder Vesa Toskala above the blocker.

The Penguins had the territorial edge in the opening twenty minutes and it was reflective in the shots on goal.  Pittsburgh directed 11 on Toskala, while the Maple Leafs could only muster four on Garon.

Toronto had the chance to take the lead early in the second period, after killing a too-many men penalty.  Mikhail Grabovski and Lee Stempniak raced in on a two-on-one, but the play bogged down in front of a sprawling Garon.  Pens defense-man Ryan Whitney was assessed a hooking penalty on the same play, and the Leafs scored on ensuing power-play when Nik Antropov was johnny-on-the-stop to stuff home a rebound at 7.53.

After going goalless in 16 straight games, Antropov has now lit the lamp in two consecutive contests to raise his season total to 15.

The Maple Leafs rode the momentum of another power-play to take a 3-1 lead at 13:39.  Alexei Ponikarovsky slipped a rebound under Garon, with assistance from line-mates Jason Blake and Dominic Moore following a three-on-two rush into the Penguins end.

Toronto turned the tables on Pittsburgh in the second period, out-shooting the Penguins 11-5 and over two periods by a 16-15 count.

Sidney Crosby, the NHL's second leading scorer, cut the Penguins deficit to 3-2 early in the third period scoring on a goal-mouth scramble at :55.  The Penguins appeared to get a favorable call on the goal, when replays clearly showed forward Matt Cooke bumping into Toskala prior to the puck entering the net.

The Maple Leafs responded less than two minutes later to restore their two-goal lead.  Matt Stajan beat Garon for his 12th of the year with help from Luke Schenn and Stempniak.

The Penguins to their credit refused to quit and in a flash scored twice in 1:14 to draw even at 4-4.  Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy scored to turn on a once low scoring, tight-checking game into a high-flying, free-wheeling affair.

The scoring continued when at 10:05, Blake snapped a shot under the arm of Garon to put the Leafs ahead 5-4.  It was Blake's 17th goal of the season, a team high for the Leafs second year forward.

Both teams ended the game with 26 shots on net, but the Leafs won where it counted on the scoreboard.

The Maple Leafs honoured former captain Doug Gilmour as part of the pre-game festivities.  "Killer," as he was known to many during his days in Toronto drew a standing ovation from the capacity crowd gathered at the Air Canada Center.

A banner of Gilmour's number 93 was raised to the rafters between two other legendary Leafs, Johnny Bower (1) and Bill Barilko (5). 

During a pause in the second period,  CBC personality Don Cherry gave Gilmour a big kiss on the cheek in an interview for the ACC audience and viewers on Hockey Night in Canada.

Cherry called Gilmour the greatest player from Kingston, Ontario. 

Gilmour spent seven glorious years in Toronto, enjoying both personal and team successes.  His best season as a Leaf came back in 1992-93 when he scored 32 goals and added 95 assists for 127 points.

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