By Jonathan Raber
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) — Following a day of travel and three-hour
time change, the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to avoid a slow
start. They weren’t able to prevent the early letdown, but made
up for it with a late flurry.
Matt Stajan and Mikhail Grabovski scored just over a minute
apart in the third period to lift the Maple Leafs to a 3-1
victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
“It was a very sluggish start,” Toronto defenseman Jeff Finger
said. “It took a good period, period and a half before we got
the cobwebs out.”
Once the hangover was gone, the Kings had no answer for the
Maple Leafs’ attack.
“The early part of the game was a matter of us going
post-to-post to find our legs,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.
“Once we settled down, we got back to our ‘throw the puck into
the net kind of game.'”
Trailing by a goal, the Maple Leafs took advantage of a pair
costly Kings’ penalties early in the session. Defenseman Sean
O’Donnell was whistled for tripping and captain Dustin Brown was
hit with a tripping penalty in the opening two minutes of the
period to set up a 5-on-3 advantage.
Stajan needed just 10 seconds to even the score, flicking a
loose puck in front of the crease past a host of Kings.
“We got a lucky break, crashed the net,” Wilson said.
“(Stajan), who wasn’t really feeling well, got rewarded by just
hanging tough in front.”
Still with a man-advantage, the Leafs struck 81 seconds later
when rookie John Mitchell intercepted a pass as the Kings tried
to clear the puck. He then fed an open Grabovski in front for
the conversion and a 2-1 lead.
Finger added an empty-net goal in the final 10 seconds to
account for the final score.
The Maple Leafs had struggled entering the contest, having won
just once in their previous six games. Vesa Toskala allowed an
early first-period goal but finished with 32 saves.
“The last few games, he’s been outstanding for us,” Maple Leafs
defenseman Luke Schenn said. “It wasn’t his fault the first
goal, we gave up a breakaway. He played well the whole night.
He’s been awesome for us and the reason the last few nights
we’ve been playing better.”
Jason LaBarbera stopped 27 shots for Los Angeles, which had its
three-game winning streak snapped. It was LaBarbera’s second
start in past 30 days.
“We played well, we just didn’t do enough,” LaBarbera said. “We
found a way to lose, instead of finding a way to win.”
The Kings took a 1-0 advantage before the Leafs could settle in,
scoring 57 seconds into the opening period.
Defenseman Matt Greene came up with the steal in Kings’
territory and sent a long pass to Frolov, who was streaking down
the center of ice. The right wing faked twice and finished with
a backhand past Toskala.
Toronto got some bad news on the injury front when it was
revealed that right wing Jamal Mayers suffered a broken hand
after hitting it on the post in the first period.
After undergoing x-rays that showed damage, Wilson said he
expects Mayers to miss three-to-four weeks.