TORONTO – This isn’t exactly what Ron Wilson had in mind when he spent the last week telling his players to go to the net. But the Toronto Maple Leafs coach certainly wasn’t complaining about the results.
Tough guy Colton Orr scored a controversial winning goal on Tuesday, knocking over goalie Scott Clemmensen before having the puck go in off his skate as the Maple Leafs edged the Florida Panthers 3-1.
It was the kind of play that is almost always called goaltender interference. Panthers coach Pete DeBoer was livid after the game and suggested he needs a tutorial from the NHL on what kind of play warrants that penalty. Even his Maple Leafs counterpart acknowledged there should have been a call.
“Colton took the goalie out and it should have been a penalty,” said Wilson. “Let’s be honest. But they didn’t see it so you take what you can get.”
The victory put an end to a three-game losing streak that had Wilson pleading with his players to start going to the “hard areas.”
Orr certainly did that before scoring his second goal of the season at 11:02 of the third period. He skated out from the corner and knocked over Clemmensen just before linemate Tim Brent took a shot that ended up hitting him on the way in.
“The goalie stepped way out and then Colton was just trying to get to the front, but he kind of ran over him,” said Wilson.
Added Orr: “I was trying not to make any contact. I was just trying to get out to the front.”
Clemmensen tried pleading his case with referee Stephen Walkom, but didn’t get anywhere. The only explanation he was given from Walkom about the non-call was that he thought he was outside of the crease.
It was a tough result for the Panthers to stomach after playing a tight-checking game for the first 50 minutes and putting themselves in good position to pull out a road win.
“It’s unfortunate,” said DeBoer. “You’ve got 40 guys battling hard on that ice on both teams. Games shouldn’t be decided that way.”
Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel also scored for Toronto (5-2-1).
Dennis Wideman replied for the Panthers (3-4-0).
The Leafs were forced to start juggling players around their bottom two forward lines after Colby Armstrong left the game early in the first period. He suffered an “upper body injury” on his first shift and will undergo an MRI on Wednesday.
If not for that injury, Orr likely wouldn’t have found himself on the ice with Brent and Fredrik Sjostrom when he scored the winning goal.
“You have guys playing kind of all over the place,” said Brent. “We dug in tonight and it was a huge win for us. It was hopefully something that gets us back on the winning track.”
After Bozak scored his first goal of the season, Wideman tied it on a Panthers power play at 14:27 of the second period. The Leafs felt goaltender J.S. Giguere had been bumped by Cory Stillman before Wideman beat him with a wrist shot from the point.
“I thought they should have called mine,” said Giguere, who finished with 21 saves. “I’m sure they probably think that they should have called theirs. We’re even.”
Kessel completed the scoring with less than three minutes to play in the game, breaking in alone at the end of a long shift and beating Clemmensen high. It was the seventh goal of the season for the flashy winger, who has scored in 11-of-14 games stretching back to the start of the exhibition schedule.
“I’m feeling good,” said Kessel. “The most important thing is we got the win tonight. That’s a big win for us.”
When the Leafs visit Boston on Thursday night, Kessel will be looking for his first goal against his former team. He had only one assist in six games against the Bruins last season.
Wilson will be looking for more out of all his players in Boston.
“We still didn’t generate the offence I was hoping we would,” he said. “We’re overpassing the puck at times, there were some clear opportunities to shoot. But we found a way to win the game and played better defensively.”
Notes:John Mitchell and Carl Gunnarsson were back in the press box, replaced in the Toronto lineup by Mike Zigomanis and Brett Lebda … Radek Dvorak played his 567th game as a member of the Panthers—tying him with Olli Jokinen for second on the all-time list, seven games back of Robert Svehla … Florida centre Shawn Matthias missed a second straight game with a sore foot … Announced attendance was 19,239.