TORONTO – Even the law of averages couldn’t help the Toronto Maple Leafs win a shootout.
Coach Ron Wilson tried the unorthodox move of switching goalies for the penalty shot tiebreaker but Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry both scored on Curtis Joseph to give the Ducks a 3-2 victory on Tuesday.
It was the third shootout loss in four games for Toronto. Wilson has devoted plenty of practice time to improving his team’s performance in shootouts and told both Joseph and starter Vesa Toskala that he would switch them if another game reached that point.
His thinking was simple: According to Wilson, Joseph had been scored on 28 per cent of the time in penalty shots while Toskala had been beaten with 54 per cent of the attempts against him.
“I was playing the percentages,” he said. “I’m not going to hesitate to do that until we get Tosk a little more practice – a different way of thinking on stopping the other team in shootouts. I had nothing to lose.”
The move caught just about everyone at the Air Canada Centre by surprise.
“I’ve never seen it happen before,” said Perry. “I saw (Joseph) warming up and I turned to the bench and said, ‘They’re putting him in?”‘
He and Selanne each beat Joseph with quick shots while Toronto’s Nikolai Kulemin and Tomas Kaberle both missed the net with their shootout opportunities.
Even after watching the first 65 minutes from the bench, Joseph didn’t mind being called on.
“It’s entertainment, right?” he said. “I have had some success at shootouts but those were two good shots. I’ve got to like being in that position, at least you can come in and you’ve got a chance.
“Unfortunately, the quick releases look a little quicker when you’ve been sitting.”
Added Toskala: “I don’t have any problem at all. As a team we just have to find a way to get those points because they’re going to be huge (at the) end of the season. Today we were trying this – it didn’t work.”
Francois Beauchemin and George Parros scored in regulation for Anaheim (2-5-0).
Nik Antropov had both goals for the Maple Leafs (1-2-3).
The loss was an unjust result for the home team. Toronto kept the Ducks from registering a shot in the third period – the first time in franchise history that’s happened – and outshot them 28-7 over the final two regulation periods and overtime.
Anaheim knew it had stolen a couple points.
“We have to start somewhere,” said Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. “We’ll take any two points we can get but we need a better 60-minute effort.”
Added coach Randy Carlyle: “The way we’ve been going, we’ll take everything we possibly can.”
First-period goals from two unlikely players suggested it was going to be a good night for his squad.
Beauchemin made it 1-0 at 4:36 of the first period by ripping a slapshot past a screened Toskala. That gave the defenceman his third goal of the young season – eclipsing the two he scored in 82 games a year ago.
An even less likely source put the Ducks up 2-0. Parros got behind Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn and took a breakaway pass before beating Toskala glove-side at 9:50. It was his second goal of the season and just the sixth in an NHL career that has spanned 165 games and has been most notable for his fighting ability and signature moustache.
“Any time you beat a goalie it feels good,” said Parros.
The Leafs managed to turn it around in the second period. Wilson shook up his lines and saw one of the new units get his team on the board.
Antropov found himself with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan and made it 2-1 at 8:15 of the middle frame. A point shot bounced off the end boards before Antropov backhanded it behind Giguere.
It looked like it might be the only time the Leafs would beat the netminder all night.
Toronto pressed hard for the equalizer throughout the third period and couldn’t capitalize on two power plays, including a 32-second 5-on-3 advantage. Antropov had the best chance during that sequence but Giguere came across his goal to make a toe save on the big forward. Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn also rang a shot off the crossbar as the second penalty expired.
Wilson pulled Toskala for an extra attacker with more than a minute to play and his team finally broke through. Antropov got a rebound at the side of the goal and tied the game 2-2 with 52.8 seconds left, setting up overtime and eventually the shootout.
That has only meant bad things so far this season.
“We’re playing hard each and every night,” said Antropov. “I don’t know, on the shootouts it seems like luck is just not on our side. We’ve got to work on it.”
Notes: Announced attendance at Air Canada Centre was 19,222 …It was only the third meeting between the teams since the NHL lockout … Toskala remains stuck on 99 career wins … Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf sat out with a tooth problem … Leafs defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo was a healthy scratch for the second time this season … Stajan saw more ice time through two periods than he had in three of his four previous games.