Published March 24, 2011
DENVER – Nikolai Kulemin had two goals, and Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak also scored, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs past the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win.
The Maple Leafs boosted their points total to 78, three behind idle Buffalo for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth. Toronto has seven games remaining.
Colorado saw its modest two-game winning streak snapped on a night when they lost two more players to injury.
Defenseman Ryan Wilson did not return after suffering a second-period knee injury.
The Avalanche also lost Mark Olver, part of Colorado's top line, to a head injury midway through the first period. He was leveled by Mike Komisarek's hard check near the red line and lay sprawled for several moments before crawling off the ice.
Even before Olver managed to reach the Colorado bench, teammate Cameron Gaunce, recalled from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League earlier Thursday, was exchanging blows with Komisarek that resulted in 5-minute penalties for both for fighting.
The Maple Leafs went up 4-2 on a goal by Kessel that he drove past goalie Peter Budaj, who had replaced starter Brian Elliott at the beginning of the third period. Elliott returned shortly after Kessel's goal at 3:02 of the third.
After officials waved off an apparent goal by Toronto's Mike Brown, ruling the puck had been kicked in, the Avalanche again closed to within a goal on a score by Matt Duchene. He beat James Reimer with a rebound shot at 11:55 of the third. But in the final minute, with Elliott pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Reimer turned away a flurry of shots by the Avalanche.
Toronto took a 3-1 lead when Tyler Bozak redirected Luke Schenn's shot into the open side of the net past Elliott at 9:37 of the second period. Colorado got back within a goal three minutes later when their power play delivered a score by Ryan O'Reilly.
Colorado opened the scoring on Daniel Winnik's short-handed goal 5:55 into the game, but Toronto went in front on a pair of goals by Kulemin.
Kulemin's first goal at 10:32 of the first went into the net off Elliott's pads. He also emerged with the puck following a scramble behind the net, squeezing off a shot that got past Elliott in the final seconds of the period.
Notes: Winnik's first-period goal was his 11th of the season, tying his career high set as a rookie while with Phoenix in 2007-08. ... The Maple Leafs and Avalanche met for the only time this season in what was the last of Colorado's 18 meetings against Eastern Conference opponents. ... Scoring his 27th and 28th goals of the season, Kulemin tied Mikhail Grabovski for second on the team, one behind the club leader, Kessel.