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Team lets Tellqvist down

Tuesday, 01.21.2003 / 12:00 AM ET / News
Toronto Maple Leafs
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Team lets Tellqvist down
by John McCauley

TORONTO -- Mikael Tellqvist had a lot to live up to in his NHL debut.

As if it wasn't bad enough that the Swedish netminder was making his first start after years of hype, the 24-year-old was going up against one of the best teams in league, the Philadelphia Flyers.

Compounding the problem still was Ed Belfour's domination of said Flyers. The Eagle allowed just two goals, including two shutouts, in three previous games. Looked like a lot for the young kid to live up to.

Mikael Tellqvist looked confident all night.
Graig Abel Photography
Despite those issues, Tellqvist showed he can play in the bigs, stopping 23 shots in a tough 3-1 loss, Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre. Save for 22 seconds in the third period when his team abandoned him on back-to-back bonehead plays, his night must be considered a success.

The rookie couldn't be faulted on any of the shots that beat him. Jeremy Roenick caught Tellqvist moving across the crease with a quick snapshot for the game winner. Had it not been for Robert Svehla's inability to get the puck deep during a line change, the chance would have never occurred.

The same can be said for Mark Recchi's insurance marker, which sealed the end of the Leafs' 13-game unbeaten streak at home. Richard Jackman wasn't able to keep veteran tied up as Tellqvist searched for the puck in his skates and the rebound squeaked in.

Prior to those miscues, Michal Handzus pounced on a first-period turnover in the slot to open the scoring. Again, Tellqvist was let down by his mates.

"All three goals originated with poor coverage and turnovers from the defencemen," Pat Quinn said. "Hardest part about this business is when you beat yourself."

Mats Sundin recognized the situation his team put Tellqvist in and felt bad for his countryman.

"It was a tough start for him, at home against a good team," Sundin said. "I thought he looked good and made a couple of real good stops."

The tender though, was accepting all the blame after the game.

"It's too bad. I felt like I had a good start," Tellqvist said despite a slip in crease while making his first save. "I'm part of the team and it's my fault too.

"Up until the game I was pretty nervous. It was probably the biggest day of my life so far."

Unfortunately for him the start maybe his last for a while. Quinn was optimistic about Belfour's return on Friday in Buffalo. Trevor Kidd is having an ultrasound on Wednesday to determine the extent of his groin injury. The Leafs also expect Tom Fitzgerald to get back in the lineup against the Sabres.

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