Kessel explodes for 1st hat trick of season to power Leafs | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaKessel explodes for 1st hat trick of season to power Leafs

Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 | 10:51 PM

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Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his third goal against the Anaheim Ducks on October 22, 2013 in Toronto. (Abelimages/Getty Images) Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his third goal against the Anaheim Ducks on October 22, 2013 in Toronto. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

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Toronto Maple Leafs sharp-shooter Phil Kessel, who had just two goals in his first nine games, registered his first hat trick of the season as his team overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the visiting Anaheim Ducks 4-2 at Air Canada Centre. The win snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Western Conference Ducks.
The Thrill is back. Phil the Thrill, that is.

Toronto Maple Leafs sharp-shooter Phil Kessel, who had just two goals in his first nine games, registered his first hat trick of the season as his team overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the visiting Anaheim Ducks 4-2 at Air Canada Centre. The win snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Western Conference Ducks.

"Those are some serious goal-scorer goals," said captain Dion Phaneuf of his teammate's sudden eruption on offence. "He didn't have a lot of room on two out of the three and he found a way to put the puck in the net. That's what he does. That's why he's one of the top players in the league. It's a huge game by him for our team."

Kessel, who signed a huge contract extension prior to the start of the season, had lately fallen into the habit of hanging around on the perimeter and taking long shots that had little chance of going in. 


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Toronto coach Randy Carlyle made note of the change in Kessel's game against the Ducks.

"The thing with goal-scorers is they usually have to have a bounce go their way and pure goal-scorers find ways to get pucks directed towards the net," Carlyle said. "If you look where the goals were scored from, it's a lot different from where the shots were coming from the last two or three games. The shots had been from the outside and these goals were scored from the tough area. That's the difference."

The typically reserved Kessel, who feels about facing the media the way most feel about going for a root canal, credited his linemate, James van Riemsdyk for some of his success on the evening.

"JVR made two great passes to me and I was fortunate to be able to bury both of them," he said.

Kessel was delighted to see the hats come flying onto the ice and hear the fans chant his name after his third goal.

"Obviously I love the city and I love the fans, so it was a good night," he said.

Practice makes...

Not Perfect. The Maple Leafs spent a good portion of Monday's practice working on their breakout and then were absolutely abysmal in the opening period against the Ducks. Their first pass out of the defensive zone is nearly non-existent and they, typically, committed too many turnovers -- eight compared to four for Anaheim.

Calming the nerves

If you thought Carlyle read his team the riot act between the first and second periods after the Maple Leafs managed just two shots on goal, you would be wrong. In fact, he did quite the opposite.

"In the first period we were awfully tight," Carlyle said. "We couldn't execute a 20-foot pass with the guy wide open. We were putting the puck in people's feet and it looked like we were so tense and wound up that we were tripping over one another. I told them to relax. We were tense. You could see it. I told them to go out and play. 

"You can tell when your group can't make a 20-foot pass to a guy who is wide open. There was no better example of that than on the power play. That's when the frustration level starts to build; obviously in the building, on the bench on the coaching staff and amongst the players. When you read that you have to try to be more of a calming effect and not throw more gasoline to the fire."

Big kill

The Maple Leafs snoozed through the first period and then after falling behind 2-0 at 1:59 of the second, appeared to wake up. They tied it with back-to-back goals a minute and 19 seconds apart and then killed off a two-man advantage for the Ducks that lasted a minute and 27 seconds. They were helped by the fact that Anaheim's power play was looking for the perfect shot and never found it.

"Usually that gives your team momentum if you can kill a five-on-three," Carlyle said. "With the talented players they have on their team -- guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Cam Fowler, Mathieu Perrault... there's some talent out there. Our goaltender made some big stops and our defence played huge."

The defence cannot rest 

While the Maple Leafs played arguably their best defensive game of the year against an explosive team, Carlyle is not yet satisfied with the way his blue-liners are performing.

"We believe our defence has a lot more to give," the coach said. "We're going to need more of a contribution from all of our group. We need more from Paul Ranger and Jake Gardiner, but we also need more from Cody Franson and Morgan Rielly and Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson. I think our defence as a whole has more; there's more there than we have gotten so far, We firmly believe that as a coaching staff.

Clarkson cleared

After sitting out the first 10 games of the 2013-14 season for leaving the bench to participate in a skirmish in pre-season, newcomer David Clarkson will finally make his debut with the Maple Leafs Friday in Columbus. Clarkson, 29, played six seasons with the New Jersey Devils helping them to the Stanley Cup final 2011-12. The Maple Leafs have been lacking leadership in this young 2013-14 season and he should fill that void.

Yzerman eyes candidates 

Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman was in attendance Tuesday night. Yzerman, who is also the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was paying close attention to some of the players that attended Canada's Olympic orientation camp this past summer including Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf, as well as Anaheim forwards Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. 

Based on their play early this season, Yzerman was probably evaluating Maple Leafs right winger Joffrey Lupul and goaltender Jonathan Bernier, too. Those are two individuals hoping to play their way onto Team Canada. Bernier had a very strong game in particular in the third period after his team got the lead. He slid across the net to rob Selanne at 6:52 of the third and then stopped Jakob Silfverberg on a breakaway at 15:22.

Team USA present too 

Don Waddell, the former GM of the Atlanta Thrashers who is helping scout for Team USA, was also in the building to watch the likes of Toronto's van Riemsdyk and Jake Gardiner as well as Anaheim's Cam Fowler.

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