Not even flying waffles could spur the Toronto Maple Leafs to victory over the red-hot Atlanta Thrashers.
Tobias Enstrom netted a pair of goals and added two helpers and Fredrik Modin also scored twice, leading the Thrashers to a 6-3 win over the miserable Maple Leafs on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Anthony Stewart put the puck into the back of the net and Andrew Ladd added an empty netter for the Thrashers (19-11-5, 43 points), who reclaimed first place in the Southeast Division.
“It was important to find a way to win,” Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec told the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore. “It doesn’t matter how you win. It’s a very important two points.”
Toronto (12-17-4, 28 points) on the other hand hasn’t notched two points in three straight games and is enjoying their familiar perch at the bottom of the Northeast Division standings.
The natives are getting a bit restless North of the border.
The Maple Leafs, hockey’s version of the Chicago Cubs, have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967. They have one of the most dedicated fan bases in the league that pays some of the highest prices to watch their hockey team lose year-after-year.
In an arena where ticket prices are going as high as $500 on the resale market, frustration boiled over on the third period. With the team down 5-1 midway through the period, the sellout crowd began the familiar chants of “Fire Wilson” around the joint. Moments later, a disgruntled fan of Toronto’s last place hockey team threw some waffles on the ice as Phil Kessel strode into the Atlanta zone.
As if Pavelec, who entered the game with the league’s second-best goals-against-average, wasn’t enough to halt the Maple Leafs’ struggling offense, the 20 cent waffles caused a stoppage in play. According to the fan, the Maple Leafs players need to eat their breakfast – whatever the heck that means.
While my mom always told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, eating a healthy breakfast is the least of Toronto’s problems. Defensive breakdowns, uninspired play, an anemic offense and terrible goaltending may have more to do with why the Maple Leafs are not winners on the ice.
“That’s getting sickening,” former Thrashers forward Clarke MacArthur told the Associated Press of the “Fire Wilson” chants. “(The coaches) aren’t the ones out there in the first five minutes not skating. I’ve said it before with the systems and that, they’re as good as anybody’s. It’s about guys doing it.”
The Thrashers took control in the first three minutes of the hockey game. Modin tipped Ron Hainsey’s shot from the top of the slot to post the Thrashers to a 1-0 lead at 2:24 of the first before Enstrom followed with a power play goal 28 seconds later.
John Mitchell cut the lead to 2-1 with a rebound tally with the man advantage at 14:22 of the second before Modin tipped an Enstrom blast to restore the two-goal cushion with 56 seconds left in the frame. Atlanta added two goals quick goals in the final frame.
Bryan Little stole the puck in the Toronto zone and fed Stewart with a nifty backhand pass. Stewart beat Toronto netminder Jonas Gustavsson from the slot at 3:04 of the third before Enstrom scored his second tally of the night on a blast from the point to extend the lead to 5-1.
Then chants began and the waffles happened. The Maple Leafs clawed their way back into it, scoring two power play goals after waffle-gate to cut the lead to 5-3. Even though Ladd removed all doubt with an empty netter with 25 seconds left, Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay was not happy with the lull that let Toronto back in the game.
“That’s what we do,” Ramsay told Vivlamore. “We keep doing it. At the start of the first period we did everything correctly. We got the puck deep. We chased it hard. We ran our cycles. We did everything that we need to do as a team. We are obviously getting better at it.
“Then it gets good to us. Now we are good. Now we are really good. So you don’t have to do the details. Now you gamble one more time. Now you stay on a little longer. … We couldn’t seem to turn it back around.”
Pavelec steered aside 37 shots, while Gustavsson stopped 13 for Toronto. Backup goalie James Reimer stopped four more Atlanta goals after “The Monster” was pulled in the third period.
Little and Dustin Byfuglien had two assists each for the Thrashers, who have notched points in 14 of their last 16 games.
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