TORONTO - With road wins in Ottawa and Montreal last week, the Nashville Predators might have been thinking about an Eastern Canadian sweep as they concluded a three-game swing Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But the Leafs had something the Senators and Canadiens did not: a hot goaltender in Vesa Toskala. "He was really good, we had a lot of chances, but we couldn't bury them," said Predators coach Barry Trotz.
"Even late in the game, Toskala made a couple of good savesaIf he doesn't make those stops, we're right there in the game."
The Predators outscored Ottawa 6-5 last Thursday and bested Montreal 5-4 in a Saturday night shootout, but they couldn't figure out Toskala until it was much too late. Defenceman Shea Weber scored his first goal of the season with less than six minutes remaining in the game, but that was as close as the Preds would come in a 3-1 loss.
"We played him (Toskala) when he was in San Jose in the playoffs a couple years ago, and he's a good goalie, he's proven that," Weber said.
Making his eighth straight start, the 30-year-old Toskala stopped 34 shots - the Preds outshot the Leafs 35-15 - and win his third consecutive decision. For the Leafs, it's their first three-game winning streak of the season.
"They only had 15 shots all night," Trotz said, "if you can do that to most teams, you're going to do alright."
Added Preds captain Jason Arnott, who fired 12 shots at Toskala, several from point-blank range: "We really had some good opportunities to score, but Toskala was the No. 1 star, no doubt."
The Leafs goalie, a native of Tampere, Finland, who arrived in Toronto from San Jose in an off-season trade, has allowed five goals in his past three starts. In doing so, he has lowered his goals-against average to 2.93 - the first time it's been below 3.00 all season. He also improved his record to 9-8-3, the first time all season he's had more victories than defeats.
"They played solid defensively in front of him and Toskala made some great saves," said Preds goalie Chris Mason.
Both the Maple Leafs and Predators are off until Thursday. The Leafs travel to New York to face the Rangers, while the Preds play their fourth Canadian opponent in a row when the Vancouver Canucks visit Music City.