DENVER – Even a six-game win streak isnt enough to ease the nerves of a head coach. “Coaches never breathe easy,” said Randy Carlyle with a chuckle after his team pulled out an unlikely 5-2 win in Colorado. Make it six straight for the Maple Leafs, who despite the challenges of the blistering Avalanche – one regulation loss in the previous 10, thin air of the Mile High City, and third game in four nights, managed to overcome with two points in the second tilt of a four-game road trip. The primary components of the win streak stood tall yet again. There was more terrific goaltending, this time from James Reimer, who stopped 35 of 37 Avalanche flurries. There was continued dominance from Phil Kessel, who extended his wild point streak to seven games with a pair of goals. There was another quick strike in the opening frame. And there was another fine special teams outing, the Leafs scoring again on the power-play while halting a scorching Colorado man advantage in all four opportunities. Sunny times roll on in the dead of winter for a once victory-challenged squad. “Theres a lot more life in the room,” said Dion Phaneuf after the latest victory. “Weve got a confidence in our dressing room right now that we feel good about ourselves. And thats a good feeling for a team.” Its been eight years since a Toronto club won six in a row, the last run coming during the 2005-06 season. This streak was especially unforeseen considering how dour the scene looked less than two weeks earlier and really for the better part of the season. The Leafs had just four wins in regulation during a stretch of two months and had dropped four consecutive games in the early days of 2014, including a pair of disastrous blowout losses to the Rangers and Hurricanes. But from those ashes has risen an unlikely string of victories – including four in regulation in this run alone – some good fortune aligning with good goaltending, strong special teams and elevated performance from some of the teams top guns, notably Kessel and the top line. “It was a tough stretch,” said Kessel, who has 26 goals on the year, “but we stayed positive and we fought our way out of it and were on a pretty good roll right now.” Five Points 1. En Fuego About the hottest hes ever been as an NHL player, Phil Kessel added two more points to a scorching seven-game point streak. Kessel, who scored twice against the Avalanche and now has goals in four straight games, has six goals and 14 points during the sizzling run. “Hes a mutant almost,” Morgan Rielly beamed to the Leaf Report during Tuesdays game. “Hes just scoring. Hes getting points. Hes happy. Hes flying around out there so its been great. Hes one of the top players in the world and hes proving it.” Kessel managed the two markers, but could have ended up with three or four considering the dozen or so opportunities he had on this night. He scored his first on a breakaway, beating Semyon Varlomov far-side, adding another on a rebound opportunity. “What did he have like 12 shots on goal tonight,” van Riemsdyk said of his linemate, who managed eight shots. “It was pretty incredible the display he put on.” “I couldve had a bunch tonight,” Kessel agreed. “I missed some good chances.” 2. Scoring First With the first of two goals from Kessel – a stretch pass from Dion Phaneuf feeding the winger – Toronto scored first for the fifth time during their rare six-game win streak, a point of emphasis for a team thats been outscored in first periods all season. “That was a big thing weve been keying on is having better starts,” said Tyler Bozak on Tuesday morning. “When you get that first goal the odds say that youve got a way better chance of winning so thats something that we want to do as much as we can.” Scoring first against the Avalanche was especially important. Colorado entered the night with 25-1-3 record when they landed the games first goal. And though the Leafs didnt exactly storm out of the gate – they were being outshot 11-2 at one point, no doubt stung by the altitude – they did manage to hang in, mostly due to the early efforts of James Reimer. “Reims stood tall for us,” said Carlyle of Reimer, who won his second straight start. “Thats what were asking of our goaltenders. When you get a chance to get in there give us what you can … Give us goaltending that you can hang your hat on.” 3. No Fly Zone James van Riemsdyk took hold of the team lead with his eighth power-play goal of the year against Colorado, redirecting yet another Cody Franson point shot beyond Varlamov for the Leafs second goal. “JVRs got a no-fly zone,” Franson chirped afterward. “Put it in a certain airspace its going down.” van Riemsdyk has proven adept at the tactic of tipping pucks, a skill-set he began practicing on the driveway of his home as a kid. That practice picked up when he reached the NHL in Philadelphia. Flyers assistant coach Joe Mullen helped the former University of New Hampshire star formulate a daily routine for working on it. And now at the end of just about every on-ice workout, the 24-year-old does exactly that. “I owe a lot of that to him because he would hammer away some slappers at me every single day,” said van Riemsdyk of Mullen. “And then Id have Chris Pronger breathing down my neck, getting me out there before practice sometimes doing it. Ive worked on it a lot over the years. It comes a little bit more naturally thanks to those guys.” 4. Offence from the D The Leafs stable of defenders barely made a blip on the offence in the opening two months of the season – just three goals in the first 28 games. Since that point, however, theyve offered a much greater contribution. The group had scored at least a goal in four consecutive games before Tuesday, totaling 17 on the year and a hearty 14 in the past 24 games. And though they didnt find the scoreboard against the Avalanche they did manage to aid in the attack. A pair of point shots – one from Franson on van Riemsdyks 20th of the season and one from Jake Gardiner on Nazem Kadris 13th this season – were redirected for goals. “Our job is to get the puck through or make plays with it up top,” said Phaneuf, who sits second on the team with 20 points this season. “Our forwards have done a really good job down-low of getting us the puck and giving us some time and moving it quickly up to us [at the point]. Weve been able to get some pucks through with some good screens and when you do that you generate chances and thats what weve had success with.” 5. Lead Protection Third period lead protection has been a recurring struggle for the Leafs this season – theyve been outscored 61-42 – and one thats been tested amid the win streak. Just a night earlier in Phoenix, the club had some difficulty protecting a big lead in the final frame – lackadaisical at times, according to Carlyle – before pulling out an eventual win. Again on Tuesday they were tested, but after a quick goal from Nathan MacKinnon, which closed the gap to 4-2, the club gradually found its bearings. “Hopefully this is a sign of growth for our group and we can continue to go forward,” said Carlyle. “Theyve got a lot of offence,” Phaneuf said of the high-powered Avalanche. “Theyre coming with four guys the whole time. We gave up some chances, but really we kept a lot of it to the outside. And when they were coming they obviously were pushing when theyre down by as many as they were. We did a good job holding them off.” Bonus Point – Man Advantage Now ranked third in the NHL, the Toronto power-play struck for the seventh time in the six-game win streak. The unit has sizzled with a 31 per cent success rate during the run (7-23). Stats-Pack 7 – Consecutive games with a point for Phil Kessel, who has six goals and 14 points in that span. 4 – Consecutive games with at least a goal for Kessel. .930 – Even-strength save percentage this season for James Reimer, tied for sixth-best among NHL netminders with at least 20 starts. 4 – Consecutive games with a point for Nazem Kadri, who has two goals and six points in that span. 8 – Shots on goal for Kessel on Tuesday, a season-high. 19 – Points in the past 16 games for Tyler Bozak, who had two assists against Colorado. Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-4Season: 22.9% (4th) PK: 4-4Season: 77.8% (27th) Quote of the Night “JVRs got a no-fly zone. Put it in a certain airspace its going down.” -Cody Franson, on James van Riemsdyks redirection abilities. Up Next The Leafs continue their four-game road swing in Dallas on Thursday night. Scarpe Air Max 97 Scontate .7 million, one-year contract, a raise of $2.2 million. 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Scarpe Air Max Flair Scontate .Fiji striker Roy Krishna scored in the 14th minute to give Wellington its fourth win, along with a draw, from its past five matches, putting the Phoenix fourth but only a point behind third-placed Adelaide.(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets will put their perfect record on the line tonight in their stiffest test to date, a home battle with the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. Later, two of the Western Conferences postseason teams from a season ago tangle early in this campaign when the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the Moda Center. Both games can be seen on TSN2 beginning with the Rockets vs. Suprs at 8pm et/5pm pt. The Rockets can become the leagues first 6-0 team with a victory on Thursday. The Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors are also perfect in the early part of this campaign. Houston is supremely confident and should be against the Spurs. The Rockets swept the season series in 2013-14 and have won seven of the last nine at home versus the defending champs. The Rockets reached 5-0 in their toughest challenge before Thursday, toppling the previously undefeated Miami Heat, 108-91, in South Beach on Tuesday night. James Harden was a rebound shy of a triple-double, tallying 25 points and 10 assists for the Rockets. We showed tremendous confidence, especially in the fourth quarter, said Harden. We got stops when we needed to. Dwight Howard posted 26 points and 10 boards and Trevor Ariza nailed five 3- pointers and netted 19 points for Houston, which is off to its first 5-0 start since opening 6-0 during the 1996-97 season. Patrick Beverley returned from a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury and scored 15 points. The Rockets started the season against relative NBA lightweights, but the level rose with the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions. It gets even higher versus the NBA champions. Im happy with our progress, but were not satisfied, Howard said after the Miami victory. Weve got a tough game with San Antonio. We have to be ready for our next opponent. The Spurs were well-rested for their home tilt with the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. San Antonio had only played twice early in the campaign and it showed some rust, but escaped with a 94-92 win. You can make the argument on both sides, was there rust there, or is it good to get rest? opined Duncan. Luckily, we got the win and well build on that. With the score tied with 13.6 seconds remaining, Manu Ginobili drove the lane and kicked to the corner, but was fouled with 3.8 ticks on the clock. He buried a pair of free throws, then Boris Diaw blocked a last-second heave to allow the Spurs to survive. We need to be sharper, execute better, and today we just didnt, said Ginobili. Ginobili scored seven of his 12 points on Wednesday at the foul line. Duncan and Tony Parker each finished with 17 points, with the former grabbing 13 rebounds with six blocks, four assists and three steals. Kawhi Leonard and Diaw each scored 11 points in the win. Tiago Splitter returned from a calf injury, then left because he felt tightness in the area. His availability for Thursday night is undetermined. Mavericks and Blazers battle in Portland Two of the Western Conferences postseason teams from a season ago tangle early in this campaign whenn the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the Moda Center.dddddddddddd Theyre a great team, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. Theyre a playoff team, and theyre a different team than what weve seen with the quality of their big men and their 3-point shooting ability straight across the board. Its a tough matchup, and thats always a very difficult place to play. The Mavs begin this mini road trip on a roll, winning three straight and vaulting into the league lead in scoring at 111.8 ppg. Dallas will also visit the Utah Jazz on Friday before returning home. The Mavericks reached 3-1 Monday night with a 118-113 victory at home over the Boston Celtics. Chandler Parsons scored 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting, but the Mavs nearly squandered a 26-point lead. Jeff Green and Avery Bradley fueled the Celtics comeback, totaling 35 and 32 points, respectively. Bradley had a chance to tie things at the free throw line with 39.5 seconds to go but only made two of his three attempts. Monta Ellis, after fouling Bradley behind the arc, ended Bostons 9-0 run with a tough runner off the glass to give Dallas a 116-113 lead. He made two more free throws to seal the win. They are scrappy and you know that they are going to continue to fight back, Mavs center Tyson Chandler said of the Celtics. Dirk Nowitzki netted 27 points with seven rebounds while Ellis added 14 points for the Mavs. Chandler posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 boards, while Devin Harris managed 12 points. The Mavs shot 53.7 percent from the floor and 56 percent from long range. The Blazers got back on track Tuesday night. They halted a two-game slide with an emphatic statement game, a 101-82 home victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Needless to say, it was good to get a win, said Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. But more importantly, it was how we got it, how we played. That looked like the team that we need to be. We withstood their barrage in the first quarter, stayed with our schemes and our coverages and the next 3 1/2 quarters, we did a great job defensively. We stuck with the defense and we got rhythm to the offense. It was a solid win at both ends of the court. The Cavs opened the game 10-for-10 from the field, but tailed off offensively. Cleveland never posted 20 points in the remaining three quarters and finished the contest with 13 points over the final 12 minutes. Damian Lillard busted out of his shooting slump with 27 points. He went 6- for-13 from the field, 5-for-10 from long range and 10-for-10 from the foul line. Its the same game that Ive been playing, said Lillard. The only difference was the shots just went in. It was pretty simple: just play the game. I thought we did a great job of moving the ball and everybody defended well. Wes Matthews (21), Robin Lopez (19) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16) finished in double figures. The Blazers also held the fabled James to just 11 points. The Mavs won two of three against the Blazers last season and have captured 10 of the last 15 meetings. Dallas is 12-6 in its last 18 in Rose City. ' ' '