Originally created 05/06/02

Joseph silences critics after Maple Leafs even series



OTTAWA -- Curtis Joseph didn't say a word Sunday as he walked past a group of reporters assembled in the hotel lobby and disappeared into an elevator.

Perhaps, the Toronto Maple Leafs' goaltender wanted to let his remarkable 54-save performance from the previous night speak for itself.

In silencing a growing number of critics, Joseph proved the difference in Toronto's 3-2 triple-overtime victory over Ottawa, evening the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 1-1.

If Joseph wasn't talking, many of his teammates were on his behalf as the best-of-seven series switches to Ottawa for Game 3 on Monday.

The Maple Leafs hailed Joseph's performance and came to his defense amid questions of his ability - including one Toronto newspaper headline which referred to Joseph as "Joe Sieve" following the Leafs' 5-0 series-opening loss.

"He took a lot of heat this week. I don't think it was right," said Shayne Corson. "We as a team in front of him didn't play very well and left him out to dry.

"He deserves a lot more than that, because he's done such a great job for us all year."

After watching his goals-against average balloon to 3.36 in his first eight playoff outings, Joseph returned to stellar form in Game 2.

He was at his best after Toronto squandered a 2-0 lead, keeping the Leafs in the game until Gary Roberts scored 44:30 into overtime to end the third-longest game in the franchise's history.

In the first overtime, Joseph used his mask to stop Daniel Alfredsson's shot from the slot.

In the second overtime, Joseph was on his stomach, but somehow managed to reach behind him to snag Mike Fisher's shot.

And then there was Joseph's most significant save, when he foiled Marian Hossa on a breakaway three minutes before Roberts' game-winner.

After the game Saturday, Joseph said he wasn't motivated by his recent bad reviews.

"I can't play angry," he said. "I know that. I think you have to play the way your personality is, so, I can't play angry."

As for his critics, he said: "That's fine. "You're always trying to prove yourself. This year is no different, I guess."

Roberts never lost his confidence in Joseph, and doubted that the criticism affected the goalie.

"He's a character guy who doesn't change his emotions, whether things are going very well for him or not," Roberts said. "Believe me, there's been many nights where he could've showed his frustration with our team with the way we play in front of him. It was just nice to see him get the win last night."

Joseph will have to remain sharp playing behind a banged-up team that wasn't among the NHL's best defensively even when healthy.

Before the victory, the 53rd of his playoff career, Joseph had been overshadowed by Ottawa's Patrick Lalime, who hadn't won a playoff game prior to this postseason.

Lalime, who already has four shutouts to tie an NHL playoff record, didn't play poorly in Game 2. But the Maple Leafs, as a result of solid forechecking, did manage to score the most goals of any team against Lalime in one playoff game this spring.

Lalime took the loss, which ended his five-game winning streak, in stride.

"At the moment, we were disappointed. But I think we did a lot of good things," Lalime said. "I mean, we didn't expect to win (the series) in four."

Among the positives were battling back from a 2-0 deficit, and also coming away with home-ice advantage after winning Game 1.

"It was the first time we've ever been behind in regulation in the playoffs so we showed a lot of character battling back," said Alfredsson, the Senators captain.

Following the marathon contest, which ended five minutes before midnight, neither team practiced Sunday.

Roberts was impressed by the Maple Leafs' stamina, considering they were playing their seventh game in 12 nights.

"You don't want to have too many six-period hockey games. I think that's going to wear on people as the series goes on," Roberts said. "But I really felt we got better as the game went on. ... I thought our team was more into the game during overtime because of the flow."