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Toronto Maple Leafs players celebrate their overtime win beside Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (R) during the overtime period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto March 9, 2010. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese (MIKE CASSESE)
Toronto Maple Leafs players celebrate their overtime win beside Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (R) during the overtime period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto March 9, 2010. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese (MIKE CASSESE)

Leafs burn Bruins in OT thriller Add to ...

Frank Caputi wouldn't say he always knew his son would make it to the NHL, only that, as a part-time scout with an OHL team, he knows well the long and difficult path to the big leagues.

What he did admit is his son, Gianluca, even as a tot, loved the game more than his peers.

"If we took away practice from him, he'd have a bird," he said, chuckling. "He always wanted to go play no matter what."

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A barber with a salon just north of Toronto, Caputi grew up in the city, cutting his son's hair and coaching his hockey teams. What he never dreamed of was watching Luca, now 21, skate with the Toronto Maple Leafs - the NHL team both had cheered for their entire lives.

As diehard a fan as they come, Caputi said he still thinks about the Leafs' playoff run, 17 years ago, and that fateful missed high-sticking call on Los Angeles Kings star Wayne Gretzky. "We bleed blue," he said.

Last night, Luca Caputi gave his father another Leafs memory - one his old man will likely be recalling the rest of his years.

Camped out in front of Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and with his team trailing 3-2 midway through the third period, he picked up a rebound and swatted his first goal in blue and white past the reigning Vézina Trophy winner.

It was a goal he'd thought about scoring for as long as he can remember - and better yet, it set the stage for a dramatic 4-3 overtime win on teammate Nikolai Kulemin's goal shortly after.

"You know, right place at the right time," Caputi said of his goal. "I don't think they get much easier than that."

Acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins for winger Alexei Ponikarovsky last week, Caputi was one of six rookies in the Leafs lineup last night - part of an extreme youth movement that all but guarantees the former fourth-round pick will get plenty of chances to impress.

Last night, he did just that, leading his team with five shots on goal and pestering Thomas all game long.

It was a fitting showcase of the talent that led to a 51-goal, 111-point final season of junior hockey with the Niagara IceDogs, the same squad his father still scouts Greater Toronto Area talent for.

"I thought he played pretty well considering he was a little bit anxious before the game with all his family here," Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said, referring to the nearly 40 members of the Luca Caputi fan club at the Air Canada Centre. "To get the tying goal the way he did, I'm sure we'll see a lot of that out of him. … Good for him."

The Bruins, meanwhile, entered the game still reeling from the loss of centre Marc Savard, out with a concussion after a controversial hit by Penguins pest Matt Cooke last Sunday.

Also sidelined was captain Zdeno Chara, who sat with what coach Claude Julien would only describe as a lower-body injury.

Minus their top offensive and defensive threats, it fell to a more collective effort for Boston, which is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race after running away with top spot a year ago. Getting the goals for the Bruins were all three members of their first line in Mark Recchi, Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron, but after three consecutive one-goal leads, Toronto replied each time.

Three unlikely goal scorers in checker Wayne Primeau, defenceman Carl Gunnarsson and Caputi found the back of the net for the Leafs in regulation. With time winding down in the extra frame, Kulemin played the hero with his 13th of the season, after a nice play by linemate Mikhail Grabovski.

The only goal likely to be remembered long, however, is the one by the barber's son, with his father in the premium seats, cheering his heart out.

"I'm still in awe, the building got so loud there in the third," Luca Caputi said afterward, his legs twitching as he sat in the Leafs dressing room.

"I can't really describe it right now. I think the next couple days, hopefully, it'll sink in. I'm still in la-la land."

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

 

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