McCabe Has Last Laugh Against Former Leafs, Wins It in OT

Dino MoriAnalyst IFebruary 3, 2009

Bryan McCabe didn't pass up the opportunity to stick it to his former team, the Maple Leafs.

The ex-Leafs defense-man, using teammate Nathan Horton as a decoy, blasted a shot through Toronto net-minder Vesa Toskala in overtime to give the Florida Panthers a come-from-behind 4-3 win on Tuesday.

McCabe's 10th goal of the season was made probable by the third period heroics of Cory Stillman, who scored after Leafs forward Alexei Ponikarovsky took an ill-timed boarding penalty in the game's final two minutes.

Until then, the Maple Leafs appeared to be headed to their third straight victory, a feat accomplished only once this season.

Throughout the night, McCabe endured the chorus of boos from Leaf fans who never forgot his own goal back against Buffalo last October nor his $5-million price tag.

The St. Catharines born blue-liner spent seven seasons with the Maple Leafs before being dealt to the Panthers for Mike Van Ryn last September.

This was McCabe's second visit to the Air Canada Center in less than a month.  In his first return to the ACC, he recorded an assist in Florida's 4-2 victory.

Ponikarovsky, along with Nik Antropov and Niklas Hagman scored for Toronto.  Gregory Campbell and Stephen Weiss had the other Florida goals.

In the first period, Hagman scored the opening goal of the game with a terrific individual effort, after getting his bell rung by the referee behind the Florida net.

Hagman skated into the zebra-clad official, but eventually got to the front of the net and his wraparound beat Panthers net-minder Craig Anderson at 10:52.

The Panthers tied the game just over a minute left in the first period on a pretty give-and-go between Ville Peltonen and Gregory Campbell.  Campbell re-directed Peltonen's centering pass past a startled Toskala.

Before the intermission, Toronto took the lead back at 19:40 as Alexei Ponikarovsky notched his 16th of the season, with Jason Blake and Dominic Moore receiving helpers.

This trio, put together a few games ago by coach Ron Wilson, seems to have developed a chemistry with one another.  The threesome have combined for 19 points in the past four games. 

Early in the middle period, Antropov put the Leafs ahead 3-1 going to the net to deposit home a rebound.  This marked the third consecutive game that Antropov registered a goal, following a 16-game goalless drought.

One of the loudest cheers of the night came with nine minutes to play in the second, when Leafs defense-man Luke Schenn stapled Panthers forward Radek Dvorak against the Florida bench.

It is becoming a nightly feature for Leafs fans to see the rookie Schenn make a devastating bodycheck on an opponent.  Last Saturday, he nailed Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin with an open-ice hit, which set off a skirmish between the two clubs.

Schenn was challenged by Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy to a fight as a result of the hit. Kennedy got a game suspension from the NHL for illegally stepping onto the ice to engage in a fight.

Toskala made a huge save late in the second period on Richard Zednik, who was thwarted on a two-on-one attempt to keep the Leafs ahead 3-1 after two periods.

In the third period, Stillman made a major league pass to Weiss to cut the Florida deficit to 3-2.  Weiss slipped past Antropov, the Leafs trailing foward, to beat Toskala on the back door play.

Late in the game, Toronto had an insurance goal disallowed when video replay determined that the puck did not entirely cross the Florida goal-line.

Toronto is in Buffalo on Wednesday. Justin Pogge will be called up for the third time this season to get the call in net.  He is 1-1 in his first two NHL starts.