Beating Raycroft with a shot allowed a player to order a teammate to do 10 pushups on the Air Canada Centre ice. Darcy Tucker kept scoring and kept picking on Tomas Kaberle, who begged for mercy after two sets of 10. A shot that missed the net resulted in pushups, too, and captain Mats Sundin took his punishment with a smile.
It was a fun time. Win three in a row and that’s what happens to an NHL team. Giddiness sets in.
The Leafs will try to help themselves to a fourth straight win when they play the visiting Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
Everything has been bouncing Toronto’s way of late.
“We’re starting to get some breaks and that makes a big difference,” said Raycroft.
The return of former Leafs goalie Ed Belfour, who has been playing well for the Panthers, isn’t on Raycroft’s mind.
“Never met him, don’t know him, doesn’t matter,” said Raycroft. “He’s a Hall of Famer, without a doubt, but he’s not going to score any goals.”
Coach Paul Maurice predicts a tight-checking game. Toronto beat Florida 2-1 in a shootout in October in Toronto, and the Panthers beat the Leafs 4-2 in November in Sunrise
“I think it’s going to be a low-scoring affair just based on the way they’ve played us,” said Maurice. “They’ve got good goaltending . . . they really took it to us in Florida. Hopefully we move the puck a little better this time.”
The Leafs have been better since Carlo Colaiacovo got back into the lineup. The rushing defenceman has added zip to the blue-line corps.
“The biggest thing is confidence,” he said. “Right now, I’ve got a lot of it and so does the team.
“As bad as things were a couple of weeks ago, we’ve turned things around, and we want to continue doing that up to the Christmas break.”
Colaiacovo has been paired with Pavel Kubina and the two have clicked. Now, if Colaiacovo can avoid the injury bug that bit him during his first three years as a pro . . .
“I’ve matured with age,” said Colaiacovo, 23. “I’ve come a long way.
“I want to put the past behind me and look forward to a bright future.”
While Colaiacovo’s role increases, Matt Stajan has had to cope with reduced ice time.
“In the (losing) stretch that we had, and I want to be careful I don’t hang it on one guy, his performance was sub-par,” Maurice explained. “He didn’t play as well as he needed to, and John Pohl gets a chance.
“I’m not overly upset with Matt. He’s young. His ice time is less but he’s doing more to help us win right now than he was when he was playing a number of minutes. He’s killed some big penalties and looked good doing it. The fact he’s playing less doesn’t mean he’s doing less. He’s going to get out of it. He’ll get more ice time soon. He’s getting better.”
Notes: Centre Nik Antropov has yet to resume skating after spraining an ankle in practice a week ago. … Tucker and his wife hosted for a skate and a luncheon Monday for 36 families associated with the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario whose lives have been touched by childhood cancer. Shannon Tucker’s father died of cancer in 1993. “Living in Toronto you realize there are lots of opportunities to help people that are less fortunate,” said Tucker. “We’ve been very fortunate to have three healthy children and we’ll continue to work with this organization to help other people as well.”