It wasn’t exactly what Ron Wilson had in mind when he spent the last week telling his players to go to the net, but the Toronto Maple Leafs’ coach certainly liked the result.
Tough guy Colton Orr scored a controversial winning goal on Tuesday when he knocked over goalie Scott Clemmensen and then put the puck in off his skate in Toronto’s 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
”I was trying not to make any contact. I was just trying to get out to the front,” Orr said.
It was the kind of play that is almost always called goaltender interference. Panthers coach Pete DeBoer was livid after the game and suggested he needs a tutorial from the NHL on what kind of play warrants that penalty. Even Wilson acknowledged there should have been a call.
”Colton took the goalie out and it should have been a penalty,” Wilson said. ”Let’s be honest. But they didn’t see it so you take what you can get.”
The Maple Leafs snapped a three-game losing streak that led Wilson to plead with his players to start going to the ”hard areas.”
Orr certainly did that before scoring his second goal of the season at 11:02 of the third period. He skated out from the corner and knocked over Clemmensen just before linemate Tim Brent took a shot that hit him on the way in.
”The goalie stepped way out, and then Colton was just trying to get to the front, but he kind of ran over him,” Wilson said.
Clemmensen stated his case to referee Stephen Walkom, but didn’t get anywhere. The only explanation Walkom gave about the non-call was that he thought Clemmensen was outside of the crease.
It was a tough result for the Panthers, who played a tight-checking game for the first 50 minutes and put themselves in good position to pull out a road win.
”It’s unfortunate,” DeBoer said. ”You’ve got 40 guys battling hard on that ice. Games shouldn’t be decided that way.”
Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel also scored for Toronto (5-2-1).
Dennis Wideman had the lone goal for Florida (3-4).
The Leafs were forced to start juggling players around their bottom two forward lines after Colby Armstrong left the game early in the first period. He sustained an undisclosed upper body injury on his first shift and will have an MRI on Wednesday.
If not for that injury, Orr likely wouldn’t have found himself on the ice with Brent and Fredrik Sjostrom when he scored the winning goal.
”You have guys playing kind of all over the place,” Brent said. ”We dug in and it was a huge win for us. It was hopefully something that gets us back on the winning track.”
After Bozak scored his first of the season, Wideman tied it on a Panthers power play at 14:27 of the second period. The Leafs believed that goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere had been bumped by Cory Stillman before Wideman beat him with a wrist shot from the point.
”I thought they should have called mine,” said Giguere, who finished with 21 saves. ”I’m sure they probably think that they should have called theirs. We’re even.”
Kessel completed the scoring with less than three minutes to play in the game, breaking in alone at the end of a long shift and beating Clemmensen high. It was the seventh goal of the season for the flashy winger, who has scored in 11 of 14 games, dating to the start of the preseason schedule.
”I’m feeling good,” Kessel said. ”The most important thing is we got the win. That’s a big win for us.”
When the Maple Leafs visit Boston on Thursday night, Kessel will be looking for his first goal against his former team. He had only one assist in six games against the Bruins last season.
Notes: John Mitchell and Carl Gunnarsson were replaced in the Toronto lineup by Mike Zigomanis and Brett Lebda. … RW Radek Dvorak played in his 567th game with the Panthers, tying him with Olli Jokinen for second on the team’s list – seven behind Robert Svehla. … Florida C Shawn Matthias missed a second straight game because of a sore foot.