Maple Leafs score 3 in third period, beat Canucks

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TORONTO (AP) Phil Kessel had the winning goal after nearly fighting a familiar foe.

Kessel scored the second of three straight goals for Toronto in the third period and the Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Saturday night.

The U.S. Olympian assisted on the Maple Leafs' third goal and almost had his first Gordie Howe hat trick - a goal, an assist and a fight - when he and pesky Alexandre Burrows scuffled and just about dropped the gloves late in the second period. Kessel and Burrows did fight Nov. 2 in Vancouver.

The two each got roughing minors Saturday, with Burrows getting an additional minor for high-sticking.

''(Kessel) wasn't too thrilled about all that and neither was anyone on the bench,'' linemate James van Riemsdyk said. ''Maybe you can look at that as something that got Phil a little bit excited.''

At the time of the fracas, the Canucks were clinging to a 1-0 lead on Ryan Kesler's late in the first.

That all changed in the third period, when the Leafs broke out with three goals in a 4:42 span.

''It was a one-goal hockey game and here we had an opportunity to pull a hockey game out of the fire by scoring one goal and giving ourselves a chance,'' Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. ''We have a break coming, and it would make everybody feel a lot better about themselves with a win here versus a loss.''

The win was Toronto's 11th in the past 14 games and its seventh straight at home.

''About six games ago, we really focused in on playing well going into the break,'' captain Dion Phaneuf said. ''We feel we've done that. We've gotten some big wins. We wanted to get as many points as we could going into the break and we did that.''

The Canucks lost their seventh straight game and their 16th in their past 20.

''We've dug ourselves a pretty big hole here, but we need to look at it as a challenge when we get back,'' Canucks coach John Tortorella said. ''I do believe we'll be healthier to fight our way through it. We're not dead and gone. We've allowed a lot of teams to get back in and pass us, as far the playoffs are concerned. But we still have enough games to crawl back in.''

Kessel has 31 goals this season. Mason Raymond and van Riemsdyk also scored for Toronto, and Jonathan Bernier made 23 saves.

Roberto Luongo stopped 30 shots for Vancouver.

NOTES: Leafs center Jay McClement didn't return after sustaining an upper-body injury when he fell awkwardly into the end boards early in the second period. ... The game was a rare 6 p.m. start for a Toronto home game on Saturday.