Polak, Andersen help Leafs open Western swing with win in Calgary
Toronto defenceman scores 1st goal of season
Perhaps Roman Polak's luck is starting to turn around.
The Maples Leafs defenceman scored his first goal of the season and Frederik Andersen made 19 saves as Toronto beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Tuesday night.
The game was scoreless until late in the first period when Polak gave the visitors a lead they would not relinquish with a fluke goal that pinballed off two Flames players on the way into the net.
"Lucky shot," said the rugged 31-year-old Czech. "I broke my stick on the shot too and it was a rolling puck."
Polak's slapshot from the blue line first deflected off Mark Jankowski and then as it was going well wide of the Calgary net, it deflected off the knee of defenceman Travis Hamonic and straight past goaltender Mike Smith.
Roman Polak is a pinball wizard. <a href="https://t.co/RW0dK8cD9r">pic.twitter.com/RW0dK8cD9r</a>—@NHL
It's been a tough go for Polak, who suffered a major leg injury in the second game of last season's playoffs that resulted in off-season surgery.
Not able to get a contract, he ended up signing a professional tryout contract with Toronto, only to be released from it in the pre-season. But he stuck around town and eventually agreed to a one-year deal.
Tuesday was just his seventh game of the season and second game after missing 10 games as a healthy scratch.
"The biggest thing is just don't overdo it. Don't be too excited. Just do your job and play your game and that's what I'm trying to do," Polak said.
Nikita Zaitsev, Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov, with an empty-netter, also scored for Toronto (16-9-1). The Leafs improved to 8-2-1 in their last 11 and are 4-0-1 in their last five road games.
Leafs' Western Canada road swing continues
Toronto's three-game Western Canada road trip continues on Thursday in Edmonton before wrapping up Saturday in Vancouver.
"We have a lot of road games coming up so we want to make sure we get some points and play well and keep this going," said Andersen.
Michael Stone scored for Calgary (13-10-1), which kicked off a four-game homestand.
"We score one goal, on most nights you're not going to have a chance to win," said Flames captain Mark Giordano. "They were better tonight."
Toronto extended its lead to 2-0 at 12:36 on another deflection off a Flames player. This time, it was Zaitsev's 30-foot wrist shot that ticked off the stick of Mikael Backlund and slipped through Smith's pads.
That would be all the offence Andersen would need on this night. The long-time adversary of the Flames from his time in Anaheim, improves his career mark to 6-0-1 against Calgary.
That toe save. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TMLtalk?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TMLtalk</a> <a href="https://t.co/CkD0EQhJeW">pic.twitter.com/CkD0EQhJeW</a>—@MapleLeafs
"It's a fun building to play in. A little bit more Leafs fans than Ducks fans," Andersen said with a smile. "It's special for us to come here. It's always fun having both teams getting the chants going."
Andersen's best stop came six minutes into the second when he thrust out his right pad to rob Matthew Tkachuk's dangerous chance.
Two minutes into the third period, the Leafs surged in front 3-0 when the puck caromed off a skate to Kadri in the slot and he ripped a shot past Smith for his 12th goal of the season.
"They got a couple bounces there but we've got to fight back and battle a little bit harder than we did," said Flames centre Sean Monahan.
Calgary's power play went 0 for 3 and failed to generate a shot.
"Our power play, without [Kris Versteeg] here today, obviously you could tell we were a little out of synch," said Flames coach Glen Gulutzan.
Toronto had a 30-20 edge in shots.
Andersen improved to 14-7-1 on the season while Smith fell to 11-8-1.