Stalberg scores twice in Leafs’ shootout win over Wings

 

Seeing an outstanding performance by a Swede at Joe Louis Arena is hardly unusual.

 
 
 
 
 

DETROIT — Seeing an outstanding performance by a Swede at Joe Louis Arena is hardly unusual.

It’s just that this time, it wasn’t a member of the Detroit Red Wings.

Rookie Viktor Stalberg continued one of the most promising storylines of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ training camp, scoring twice and adding an assist in a 5-4 shootout win over the Red Wings on Friday night.

John Mitchell scored the decisive goal in the shootout.

“I’m trying to show I’m capable of playing at both ends, but if I can score, that’s a big part of my game,” the six-foot-three, 210-pound Stalberg.

“It was a good confidence boost to play my game against a good team like this.”

The 23-year-old winger said he was awestruck looking across during warm-ups at some of the Swedish stars in Wings uniforms.

However, he shined just as brightly once the puck dropped.

“It was like a dream seeing (Nicklas) Lidstrom, (Johan) Franzen and (Niklas) Kronwall has been a great player for the last couple of years,” Stalberg said. “It was awesome seeing them out there and it was great playing against them.

“Kronwall said, ‘Don’t get a hat trick’ on the last power play because he didn’t want to play overtime.”

Stalberg now has four goals and six points in six games to top the Leafs in pre-season scoring.

“Some nights, he’s been our best forward,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.

“He really does have blinding speed because it’s amazing at ice level to see someone skate that fast.”

Stalberg showed a sniper’s touch on the opening goal at 9:33, beating goalie Chris Osgood high on the short side.

A little less than three minutes later, Stalberg created his second tally by muscling defenceman Brett Lebda off the puck. Lee Stempniak picked up the leftovers and the puck eventually found its way back over to Stalberg for the tap in.

Stalberg wasn’t the only Leafs rookie to play well in the opening period.

Swedish goalie Jonas Gustavsson looked worthy of the hype in his NHL pre-season debut after he stopped all seven Wings shots he faced.

“You saw he used his size,” Wilson said. “His rebound control is unbelievable. We were really happy with his play.”

Gustavsson gave way to Vesa Toskala after one period and the Finnish netminder also looked sharp. Toskala stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced over the final 45 minutes and three of four shooters in the shootout.

Toronto rookie Nazem Kadri made it 3-0 midway through second period before Kronwall replied at 14:53.

Kronwall cut it to 3-2 7:16 into the third and then Johan Franzen scored twice, the first on a power play, in a span of 14 seconds beginning at 11:55.

With the Leafs staggering, Mikhail Grabovski forced overtime at 18:49 seconds after Toskala stopped Dan Cleary on his second breakaway.

Windsor Star

dwaddell@thestar.canwest.com
 
 
 
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