Tkachuk scores 2 goals as Blues down Maple Leafs 3-2
TORONTO (AP)—Now this was the kind of start St. Louis coach Andy Murray was looking for from his Blues.
“Before the game, I talked about getting off to a better start, and we were able to establish our forecheck early and make it tough on (Toronto),” Murray said.
David Backes had a goal and an assist for the Blues, who had gone 0-5-2 before the All-Star break but improved to 5-1-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season.
Toronto native Manny Legace, with family and friends in the crowd, played well for St. Louis despite spending 11 hours in the Atlanta airport Monday trying to leave the All-Star festivities. He also didn’t take part in Tuesday morning’s pregame skate because his equipment had not yet showed up.
He started anyway and stopped 23 shots.
“I was still doubting myself when I came to the rink tonight, I wasn’t sure how I would react to all that,” Legace said. “But we got lucky tonight.”
Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala faced only 19 shots in the loss—the fewest shots against allowed by Toronto this season.
With his team in last place in the Northeast Division, Toronto interim general manager Cliff Fletcher may have to start considering trading leading-scorer Mats Sundin, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
“Of course we’ll sit down with Mats eventually,” Fletcher said. “But it’s not even Feb. 1 yet, it’s very premature. There’s nothing going on in the league yet.
“I just want him to lead the way and see if we can win some hockey games.”
Sundin continues to maintain he has no interest in moving. The trade deadline is Feb. 26.
“Mats Sundin is a tremendous player,” Murray said with a smile. “If they want to send him our way, we’ll take him.”
With 17 scouts from 15 different NHL teams in the press box looking on, the Leafs gave up the opening goal, a video review allowing Tkachuk’s deflection to stand just 1:18 into the game.
It was 2-0 just 4:23 later when Jay Mckee set up Tkachuk in front for a redirect that beat Toskala through the legs.
“When you put yourself behind the 8-ball like we did early in the first period, you’re asking for trouble,” Tucker said. “We did a good job battling back but it’s a tough position to put yourself in.”
Toskala rebounded moments later with a pad save on what looked like a sure goal by Backes during a power-play and then a nifty glove save on Lee Stempniak a few shifts later.
That seemed to spark the Leafs, who had more jump in their game. Blake cut the Blues’ lead to 2-1 when he patiently waited out Legace and rifled a shot top corner over the sprawled goalie at 12:17, waking up a dormant Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,323.
Legace then made a series of big saves on a Leafs power play that had several chances.
The Leafs carried the play early in the second period, enough to make Blues coach Andy Murray take a rare second-period timeout.
Backes made the momentum shift count when he banged home a loose puck in the slot at 10:55 to make it 3-1. Paul Kariya made the play happen with a superb cross-ice pass just inside the Toronto blue-line to Erik Johnson, whose blast left a rebound for Backes to pounce on.
The Leafs got back into it out of a broken play. Tucker’s wide slap shot bounced behind the net to Blake, who passed it between his legs to Stajan, who one-timed it over Legace at 15:11.
Toronto D Carlo Colaiacovo (knee) returned after missing nine games. He missed the first 37 games of the season with another knee injury before returning Dec. 27 and playing five games before getting hurt again Jan. 5. … The Leafs were without forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky (shoulder), Alex Steen (shoulder) and Boyd Devereaux (wrist) and defenceman Bryan McCabe (hand) … The Blues were without forwards Martin Rucinsky (shoulder) and Mike Johnson (shoulder). Johnson had surgery Jan. 16 and probably won’t play again this season. … The Blues last played in Toronto in December 2003.