Ottawa Citizen

Maple Leafs just dandy for Randy

Carlyle wins Toronto debut as head coach

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MONTREAL • Mikhail Grabovski, who began his National Hockey League career in Montreal, broke a 1-1 tie at 11:45 of the third period as the Toronto Maple Leafs went on to beat the Canadiens 3-1 in Randy Carlyle’s first game behind the Toronto bench.

The victory snapped a sixgame losing streak for the Maple Leafs, who have been slipping out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The win moved them within three points of the eighthplac­e Winnipeg Jets, and the Leafs have a game in hand.

The Leafs haven’t made the Stanley Cup playoffs since the 2004-05 lockout. Ron Wilson, who was hired in 2008-09 and bore a responsibi­lity for three of the years in that postseason drought, was fired on Friday night.

“It became obvious to me in the last week that we needed to make a coaching change if we wanted to try to salvage this season,” Toronto general manager Brian Burke said during a media session on Saturday. “I think this change is something that our team needed. I think it was required. And I think we’ve got a guy behind the wheel who can get us where we need to go.”

Carlyle, who guided the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup title in 2007, believes all the Maple Leafs might require now is an injection of confidence.

“It is easier said than done,” he said Saturday. “It’s not that they’ve lost their skills. It’s just that we have to rekindle their spirit. It’s important that they feel good about themselves. They have an opportunit­y now to show a new face a first-time impression.”

Carlyle had the opportunit­y to meet with Maple Leafs on the eve of Saturday’s game.

“We met for close to an hour (Friday) night,” he said. “The reality was I sensed that the hockey club was very, very tense right now. There’s a lot of tension. I feel that the confidence level of the group is probably at a low where it’s my responsibi­lity as a head coach to pick these guys up. They have to feel a lot better about themselves than where they are today.”

With the score tied 1-1 in the third period on Saturday night, Montreal’s Rene Bourque and Yannick Weber both chased Clarke MacArthur to the boards, and he passed the puck to Grabovski, who was alone as he skated through the middle of the zone and scored his 19th goal of the season.

The Canadiens replaced goaltender Carey Price with an extra attacker with 80 seconds remaining, but Erik Cole was penalized for goaltender interferen­ce with 58.8 seconds remaining. The faceoff went back to the Canadiens’ zone and Grabovski scored his second goal of the night with 52.4 seconds left on the clock.

Cole, who has been battling a variety of nagging injuries, opened the scoring at 7:18 of the first period. He converted a rebound after Maple Leafs netminder Magnus Gustavsson had made saves on Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.

Toronto tied the score at 6:30 of the second period, when Grabovski tied up Lars Eller following a faceoff in the Montreal zone, allowing Matt Frattin to step into the circle before beating Price with a shot. BRUCE ARTHUR writes that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke continues to stand tall in the face of defeat.

 ?? RICHARD WOLOWICZ, GETTY IMAGES ?? It doesn’t look pretty, but the puck bounces off the chest of Maple Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson for one of his 21 saves during Saturday night’s game at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
RICHARD WOLOWICZ, GETTY IMAGES It doesn’t look pretty, but the puck bounces off the chest of Maple Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson for one of his 21 saves during Saturday night’s game at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
 ?? DARIO AYALA, POSTMEDIA NEWS ?? Randy Carlyle says Maple Leafs players need an injection of confidence.
DARIO AYALA, POSTMEDIA NEWS Randy Carlyle says Maple Leafs players need an injection of confidence.
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