TORONTO (AP) -The Toronto Maple Leafs were happy to put an end to their lengthy winless skid.
Kris Versteeg scored second-period power-play goals 59 seconds apart and the Maple Leafs overcome an early three-goal deficit in a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Nikolai Kulemin's goal late in the second period completed a big comeback as Toronto scored four power-play goals in the second period.
The Leafs lost starting goaltender J.S. Giguere to an apparent groin injury early in the third period.
However, they managed to hold on for their first win since Oct. 26 with backup Jonas Gustavsson making six saves.
``That was a long three weeks,' Toronto forward Clarke MacArthur said.
Toronto was winless in eight straight entering the game. Overall, it had gone 1-8-3 since opening the season with four straight victories.
``Strange game to say the least,' Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. ``I'm glad we won. It's one of those kinds of games that when you look back on it, hopefully it puts an abrupt stop to the slide we've been in. We can use it for momentum.'
Luke Schenn and Mikhail Grabovski also scored for the Maple Leafs, who went 4 for 8 on the power play.
J.P. Dumont, Jordin Tootoo, Marin Erat and Marcel Goc scored for Nashville.
Giguere made a nice cross-crease save on Cal O'Reilly just before giving way to Gustavsson with 13:10 left in regulation.
The Leafs' backup goalie responded with a nice save on David Legwand and a quick block on Shea Weber to preserve the victory.
``It was a different situation, but you can't think so much,' Gustavsson said. ``You just have to try to get warm and get right into it.'
Toronto seemed to be in trouble when Goc stole the puck from Brett Lebda and scored on a short-handed breakaway to make it 4-1 at 4:41 of the second period.
But several Nashville penalties gave Toronto the opening it needed, with Versteeg scoring goals just 59 seconds apart - both while manning the point during two-man advantages.
``We gave them momentum by taking penalty after penalty after penalty,' Predators coach Barry Trotz said. ``When are we going to learn? You have a team down and out, you have them on the floor gasping for air and you let them off the mat. We stopped working, we stopped skating and therefore you take penalties.
``We deserved exactly what we got in the end,' he said.
Added veteran forward Steve Sullivan: ``We had them right where we wanted them - a fragile team down on the ropes and we didn't take care of business.'
Grabovski made it 4-4 on another power play, finishing a nice tic-tac-toe passing play by sliding the puck around Pekka Rinne at 14:21.
Kulemin completed the comeback at 16:44 after finding a loose puck at the top of the crease and making the shot. It was Toronto's fourth power-play goal of the game - the Leafs had scored only three in the previous eight games.
Toronto fell behind 3-0 in the first 12 minutes of the game. The third goal came just 10 seconds after Wilson had called a timeout - when Grabovski softly threw the puck in front of his own goal and on to Erat's stick.
``I tried to leave the building, but contrary to the fire code I think they chained the doors,' Wilson said. ``I couldn't leave.'
Schenn started the comeback with his first goal of the season, avoiding a defender before beating Rinne with a wrist shot at 19:30. That narrowed Nashville's lead to 3-1 and set the stage for a wild second period.
``There was a feeling we weren't done yet,' Schenn said.
Notes: Rookie Nazem Kadri earned his first NHL point with an assist on the Leafs' first goal ... Toronto had the same lineup for a second straight game - forward Luca Caputi and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson were healthy scratches. ... Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf continues to recover from a laceration on his left leg and watched the game from the press box. Coach Ron Wilson expects him to start skating again next week ... It was Nashville's first visit to Air Canada Centre since Jan. 13, 2009.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved