Toskala leads Maple Leafs over Atlanta

TORONTO - Vesa Toskala made 22 saves in his first start since Nov. 23 and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored goals 28 seconds apart on Monday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-2.


Lee Stempniak, Matt Stajan and Mikhail Grabovski also had goals for the Maple Leafs, who bounced back from a 7-2 loss in Boston on Saturday. It was the first time Toronto (8-13-7) won a weekday game at home this season and it came against one of the NHL's best road teams. The Thrashers entered with an away record of 9-2-1.

Bryan Little and Marty Reasoner scored for Atlanta (15-8-3).

The Maple Leafs spoiled the return of two former players, Nik Antropov and Pavel Kubina. Antropov was traded to the Rangers at the 2008-09 trade deadline and Kubina was sent to Atlanta after the season. They had a forgettable evening, going a combined minus-5.

There was a brief message welcoming them back to the city, but no video montage, as has been practice of late. Leafs coach Ron Wilson was disappointed by a warm welcome for a former Leaf earlier this season when Colorado's Darcy Tucker earned an ovation just before the Avalanche scored.

"I hope we don't have a 20-minute ceremony before their first power play to get them pumped up," Wilson said Monday morning.

Toskala, who has been sidelined recently with a nagging groin injury, made a couple of acrobatic saves on Slava Kozlov in the first period when the game was still scoreless. He later made a pad on a marvelous chance from rookie Evander Kane.

Thrashers starter Ondrej Pavelec also had a strong opening 20 minutes before getting shelled during the second period. All five of Toronto's goals came in the middle frame - the team's most productive of the season.

Pavelec had to deal with plenty of traffic. Stempniak and Grabovski each scored from the edge of the crease, Stajan finished off a 3-on-1 and Ponikarovsky got two quick rebound goals from in-close.

Atlanta coach John Anderson sent backup Johan Hedberg in for the start of the third period.

Little ended Toskala's shutout bid at 6:48 and Reasoner followed with a goal just 45 seconds later. However, Toskala stood tall the rest of the way and earned just his second victory of the season.

NOTES: Leafs defenseman Jeff Finger was a healthy scratch for the ninth time this season while forward Rickard Wallin was back in after sitting out eight straight. ... Antropov spent parts of nine seasons in Toronto, putting up 291 points (125-166) in 509 games. ... Lee Stempniak registered the 100th assist of his NHL career ... Kubina earned an assist on Little's goal ... Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray watched the game from the press box. ... Announced attendance was 19,050.



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