Leafs Pull It Out Of The Fire
by John McCauley
March 2, 2004
(TORONTO) -- It loooked as though 40 minutes of extremely good hockey was going to be wasted thanks to a couple poor shifts. Enter Mats Sundin to save the day ... again.
The Leafs' captain potted his 10th game-winner of the season to give the Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins, Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre. Sundin started an odd-man rush late in the third and finished it five-hole after a centring pass from Bryan McCabe. The big Swede also opened the scoring.
The two goals pushed his team-leading total to 25. He also registered his 33rd third-period point, which just happens to lead the league and should keep him in consideration for the Hart Trophy.
|Mats Sundin was free and clear on the game-winning rush.
(Graig Abel Photography)
"That's the way things turn out sometimes," Sundin said trying to explain his clutch play. "We've been getting a lot of chances in the third. You want to be out there late in the game."
The effort was almost all for naught though.
Toronto carried a 2-0 lead in the third period. It was very similar to the type of efforts exhibited when the team rattled off a 16-game point streak earlier this year.
Forwards were dominating down low in the offensive zone and defencemen were pinching at just the right times. When things did get off the rails Ed Belfour was there to be the last line of defence. The Eagle will not be too pleased with losing his shutout bid just 17 seconds into the third frame though.
Martin Lapointe banked in a cheapy after a turnover cost the Leafs position deep in their zone.
The Bruins smelled fear from the point. Toronto's had a bad habit of blowing leads since the All-Star Break so clearly they were worried and suffered because of it. Joe Thornton tied things up on another turnover to set the stage for Sundin's heroics.
"I don't know what happened for two or three shifts," Quinn said. "Next thing you know it was a fire drill."
The key to this victory may be the return of Gary Roberts, who bumped Mikael Renberg to the fourth line with Matt Stajan and Tie Domi. Roberts was in a fiesty mood and was able to create space for Sundin and Alex Mogilny. He tested the groin, which has kept him out of the lineup for eight games, with some big hits and a tilt with former Leaf Travis Green.
Not sure what started that one, but some jawing long after a whistle lit a fuse under both men. Green was clearly re-thinking the decision after the gloves were off and held on until the referees jumped in.
Tom Fitzgerald was a surprise scratch from the lineup. You knew the Leafs had some tough roster decisions to make with Roberts coming off injured reserve. Quinn told the media that Craig Johnson had been put on waivers to clear room. The team did have the option of sending down Matt Stajan and not risk losing Johnson, but felt it wasn't fair considering the play of rookie.
Quinn said that there are four forwards he is looking at rotating the rest of the way. Look for Fitzgerald, Perrott, Belak and Johnson -- if he isn't claimed -- to be battling for time after the trade deadline of March 9th.
With the win the Leafs are now tied for first in the Eastern Conference with Philadelphia, Ottawa and Tampa Bay at 84 points.
Toronto has four games remaining in its longest homestand of the season.