Early in the game, Carolina was buzzing. In the first minute, they had several shots including a quality chance in the first seven seconds. Toskala stood his ground and rebuffed every turn by the Canes.
In the first period, Carolina had three power plays including about a minute of five-on-three, but they couldn't convert. They lobbed 13 shots at the Finn, but he had a rejoinder for every one of them. It looked like "one of those nights".
It started to look even more like "one of those nights" when the Leafs scored first at 17:50 of the first. Just seconds after the five-on-three expired, Boyd Devereaux -- who was the second man in the box -- buried the rebound from a Tomas Kaberle shot. Chad Kilger got the secondary helper on the even strength goal.
The second period, which has been anathema to the Canes, was pretty bad. Carolina could only muster four shots in the middle stanza, could never mount any pressure, and they put themselves in the box a few times. The last of these is what helped give the dreaded Leafs the 2-0 lead. After Darcy Tucker forced Trevor Letowski to cough up the puck deep in the Carolina end, Kaberle tucked it in from just off the left post. The power play goal was unassisted.
Both teams played full throttle in the third. Toronto had 15 shots to Carolina's 16. Both teams committed two penalties. Neither could convert.
As the final minutes wound down, it looked like a sure thing shutout win for Toskala. In my mind, I had him as the first star, Kaberle as the second and Boyd Devereaux as the third. All that changed quite drastically.
Just as Johnny Crackers was about to leave the ice for an extra attacker, Cory Stillman broke the shutout at 18:35, assisted by Frantisek Kaberle and Justin Williams.
With the goal scored, Peter Laviolette pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 50 seconds left. Shortly thereafter, Alex Ponikarovsky had a chance to shoot at the empty net from the Carolina blue line, but he hesitated too much and Cory Stillman took the puck away. This would be the play of the game. Stillman gets mad credit for taking the puck away, and Ponikarovsky gets the "goat" treatment for not salting it away.
Ray Whitney found the back of the net at 19:33 to tie the game and send what was left of the crowd into a frenzy. Erik Cole and
The game went to overtime, which hasn't been kind to either squad this season. Late in the bonus frame, Carolina got the benefit of one marginal call and then got another obvious penalty, affording them a rare five-on-three in overtime. The Leafs killed off the front end, and it felt like the game was destined for shootout. Eric Staal, however, had different plans.
At 4:27 of the overtime, Staal fired a shot from the blue line that found the net. Originally, they gave credit to Scott Walker for a re-direction at the goalmouth. Later, they changed it to Staal, saying that the redirection was off Pavel Kubina's stick. Apparently, they've changed it back to Walker. Scott Walker got the game winning power play goal with the helpers going to Eric Staal and Erik Cole.
Vesa Toskala was 85 seconds away from his second shutout in the last three games. 85 seconds. Just like *that*, he lost the game and plummeted from the game's first star to an "also ran".
The "official" three stars went to Ray Whitney (third), Cory Stillman (second) and Scott Walker (first). The Rogers/Sportsnet three stars went to Ray Whitney (third), Hal Gill (second) and Cory Stillman (first) don't really see it that way. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Tomas Kaberle, TOR --- 1 goal, 1 assist
SECOND STAR Erik Cole, CAR --- 2 assists, 4 hits
FIRST STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 takeaways
Stillman injured his knee on Saturday, and the initial prognosis was that he would be out until after Christmas. Turned out he didn't miss a single game. If his knee was bothering him, it sure didn't show. His late goal got the team going, then his takeaway from Ponikarovsky was probably the play of the game.
Who did miss the game, though, were Rod Brind'Amour and Andrew Ladd. Both have the flu.
For the first time since November 10th and 12th, Carolina has won consecutive games. It feels good. They will put their two game win streak on the line on Thursday in South Florida against the Kitties.