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When Your Best Players ...

Wednesday, 17.12.2003 / 1:19 AM / News
Toronto Maple Leafs
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When Your Best Players ...
by Mike Ball

December 16, 2003

Scoring | Stats

(TORONTO) -- There's the old adage in sports that says when your best players play like your best players you'll often find yourself in the win column.

Tuesday night it held true for the Leafs in the 3-0 Toronto win at Air Canada Centre over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Gary Roberts had the first goal on a rebound off Mats Sundin's shot before Roberts promptly returned the favour to the captain roughly a minute, thirty seconds later. Mikael Renberg had the second assist on both markers.

(Graig Abel Photography)
"We have a group that believe we have a good hockey team here," said Sundin. "If we play our best game we're going to make the (visitors) bring their best game to beat us."

The assist was the 600th of the uber-captain's NHL career. Yet another milestone, after earning his 400th as a Leaf Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Ed Belfour was at the other end stopping all 21 shots the Lightning threw at him for his 69th career shutout and fourth of the season. He now sits at 69 shutouts, three behind Martin Brodeur for the active NHL goaltender lead.

Terry Sawchuk's all-time record is a still a long way off at 104.

"Eddie came up great for us again with some big saves to keep us in the game. And when we needed to, we found a way of scoring goals," said Owen Nolan.

Belfour's big highlight of the night came when he stopped Martin St. Louis on a breakaway.

Nolan was a story on his own as he returned to the lineup with no noticeable signs of the hip aggravation that kept him briefly sidelined.

(Graig Abel Photography)
"That extra two days that I took to get it completely healed I think was the right decision.

"It was pain-free the whole game. So, I wanted to get some hits in there and make sure everything's allright," said Nolan. "I held up good so I just kept going."

Kept going indeed.

On his second shift of the game, Nolan broke free on the right side off an Antropov pass and it took a nice left-pad save by Khabibulin to stop him from opening the scoring early.

In a second period penalty kill, the burly forward took out both Pavel Kubina and Dimitry Afanasenkov with checks at opposite ends of the rink. Moments later, Vincent Lecavalier was in the box on a frustration penalty.

He simply, single-handedly kept the excitement level of this game up, until the scoring took over in the third.

"I think he knows his game," said Pat Quinn. "He wants to get some hits in and he takes a measure of pleasure in that.

"You know yourself and you know where you have to be. And that's how he plays. It's very effective."

And finally, the Leafs continued their new tradition of the jovial post-win hug around the goalie, rather than the more typical stick-tap of his pads.

Good times in Leafs Nation.
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