Mitchell’s shootout winner leads Leafs over Wings

John Mitchell’s shootout winner gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings Friday night at Joe Louis Arena as the NHL pre-season winds down for both clubs.

It was a big night for Swedish players.

Niklas Kronwall scored Detroit’s (2-3) first two goals, while Johan Franzen gave them a third period lead with two of his own in quick succession.

Viktor Stalberg made a statement scoring twice with an assist as he tries to find a spot on the Maple Leafs (5-2) roster for 2009.

“Some nights he’s been our best forward and tonight he played very well,” said head coach Ron Wilson. “His speed is just incredible, you could see the Red Wings turning and retreating when he picked up the puck.”

Fellow Swede Jonas Gustavsson started in his first exhibition game with the Leafs after having surgery to repair a heart murmur.

“He used his size and his rebound control was unbelievable,” Wilson said. “You have to remember, he’s only practiced like three times in the past couple of weeks.”

A former star with Färjestads BK, the Monster made seven saves in the opening period, before giving way to Vesa Toskala who played well, stopping 29 of 33 shots.

Chris Osgood gave up four goals on 31 shots.

Wings come flying back

Entering the third period, Toronto had a solid 3-1 lead.

However, Kronwall had ideas of his own, scoring his second goal of the night, sending a slap shot through a Red Wings’ screen to bring Detroit within a score.

Detroit then tied the game 3-3 on the power play.

Pavel Datsyuk brought the puck into the zone before passing across the ice to the patient Johan Franzen who waited for Toskala to slide low across the crease before snapping the puck into the top corner.

Franzen struck again just 14 seconds later to give the Red Wings a 4-3 lead. Stripping Garnet Exelby on the forecheck, he skated around the net and put the puck past Toskala with his trusty wrist shot.

It looked all sewn up for the home team with 1:10 left to play until Mikhail Grabovski tied it on a Nikolai Kulemin pass.

After five minutes of overtime, the game moved to the shootout.

Toskala turned away Franzen and Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom missed the net completely. Chris Osgoode made saves on Jiri Tlusty and Christian Hanson.

Daniel Cleary scored for Detroit, while Kulemin and finally Mitchell scored for the Leafs.

Although the game featured some veterans, it was the Leafs new players that shone. Nazem Kadri had a goal for Toronto, while Hanson and Tyler Bozak had a point each.

Stalberg’s wrist shot over Chris Osgoode’s glove opened scoring 10 minutes into the first, as the rookie continues to impress this preseason.

The marker was setup by freshmen Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson who had aggressively forechecked the Red Wings defence to win the puck.

Three minutes later, Stalberg would score again.

After working behind Detroit’s net, he fed Hanson for a quick shot. The rebound landed at Stalberg’s feet, which he quickly shot into the net to put Toronto up 2-0 at the end of the first.

Former Leaf Brad May was spoiling for a fight all night. Halfway through the game, Toronto rookie Jay Rosehill obliged sending the veteran sprawling after several haymakers.

Stalberg was the catalyst of another Leafs’ goal 10 minutes into the second frame.

Playing in the defensive end, he stripped a Red Wing of the puck and streaked up the ice, followed by fellow rookie Nazem Kadri.

Taking a drop pass from the Swede, Kadri skated into the slot and scored his second goal of the preseason to give Toronto a 3-0 lead.

Detroit finally responded four minutes later, when Niklas Kronwall blasted a rebound past Toskala to make it 3-1 headed into the third period.

Coach Ron Wilson said before the game that he plans to have Gustavsson start for two periods tomorrow night in the rubber match at the Air Canada Centre.