Sundin Breaks Record, Leafs Sink Islanders
The Canadian Press
-- Mats Sundin, displaying the classy modesty that has marked his tenure as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was quick to thank the team's loyal fans after he made franchise history.
With his 390th goal and 917th point in the blue and white, the Leafs' 36-year-old Swedish captain moved past Darryl Sittler to set both club records during an 8-1 rout of the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Air Canada Centre announcer Andy Frost announced the three stars, and it was Sundin, Sundin and Sundin as more than 19,000 roared their approval.
``The fans sticking with this team, which hasn't won a championship since '67, is a big carrot for us coming back every year to try and achieve that,'' Sundin said as a media throng surrounded him at his dressing room stall afterwards. ``Tonight they were outstanding again and helped us play this game and helped us bounce back after a very disappointing game the other night.
|Mats Sundin celebrates after setting two records in one night. - Graig Abel Photography
``My respect has grown every year as a player for this city, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the fans. Hopefully, it's grown the same for me as a player.''
The Leafs were looking to bounce back from a 7-1 home loss to Carolina on Tuesday.
``Every team is going to lose at some part of the season (by big scores) _ even the team winning the Stanley Cup,'' said Sundin. ``It's how you respond after a loss like that, and I thought we responded well.
``We know we still have a lot of work to do but it is a character builder when you bounce back like that in front of your home fans and we showed our fans we're not going to lay down and it was nice to see.''
Nik Antropov, Ian White, Tomas Kaberle
, Matt Stajan, Alex Steen, Andy Wozniewski, with his first NHL goal, and Simon Gamache, with his first as a Leaf, also scored. Stajan had three assists and Darcy Tucker and Pavel Kubina two each.
``I'm extremely happy for him,'' Tucker said of Sundin. ``He's the face of the franchise and has been for a number of years.
``No matter what happens he never seems to get too high or too low. It's always, `Boys, we'll bounce back. Boys, we need to pick it up.' He never lets us get off-kilter, which is great for a team that has a few younger guys this year.''
Stajan and the other Leafs youngsters idolize Sundin.
``I watched him growing up,'' said Stajan. ``I was only 10 or 12 years old when he got traded here.
``I got to watch him a lot and I've been lucky now to play with him in this my fourth year. You couldn't ask for a better guy to be your captain.''
Ruslan Fedotenko was the only Islander to put a puck behind Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft.
``It was embarrassing,'' said Wade Dubielewicz, who was in the Islanders nets to give No. 1 Rick DiPietro a rest. ``The effort just wasn't there _ from me on out.''
The losers were gracious enough to praise Sundin.
``Mats is an all-star player and what he means to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the city, the type of gentleman that he is, it's fitting for him to get that many goals and that many points,'' said Islanders coach Ted Nolan. ``He's a heck of a player.''
Sundin's historic goal was, in fact, an attempted pass that caromed in off the skate blade of Islanders defenceman Brendan Witt at 9:54 of the third period. When Sundin went to the bench, his teammates stood and banged their sticks against the boards while the crowd cheered the captain.
They'd done the same in the second period when Sundin was credited with an assist, and for 20 or 30 minutes held the club points record all alone. But Sundin talked to the on-ice officials to let them know he hadn't touched the puck on the play, and the crowd moaned when it was announced five minutes into the third period that the point had been taken away.
``I actually went to the penalty box and they said, `I think they're going to take your assist away,' and I said, `I think so, too, because I didn't touch the puck,''' Sundin explained. ``I'm very glad it ended the way it did.
``It would have been embarrassing otherwise.''
Sundin was acquired by the Leafs in 1994. He has a lot less hair these days.
``Everything has changed,'' he said with a big grin. ``One of the referees congratulated me and said, `You never know what happens when you hang around long enough.'
``I've been very fortunate to be able to be with the same organization for all these years to get these kind of points so I give big thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs.''
Coach Paul Maurice is constantly amazed with Sundin's work ethic.
``He works hard every day,'' said Maurice. ``He enjoys being around the guys and is great in the room.
``He has absolutely no ego for a superstar. He's a perfect role model for players coming into your hockey team. He's a spectacular player.''
A team media relations executive offered Sundin the opportunity to use the media centre for his post-game interviews. He declined. He preferred to stay in the dressing room with his teammates. He's that kind of guy.
Notes: Toronto had a 42-31 shots advantage . . . On power plays, Toronto was 2-for-8 and the Islanders were 1-for-8 . . . Toronto improved to 2-2-1 and the Islanders slipped to 3-2-0 . . . Over the last 10 seasons, Sundin ranks fourth among all NHL players in goals with 334 and points with 787. In his career, he has scored 525 goals and assisted on 726 for 1,251 points in 1,236 games . . Wade Belak, taking the place of Bates Battaglia, and Gamache, up from the AHL Marlies in place of Alexei Ponikarovsky (left knee), got into their first game this season . . . Toronto's next game is at home against Pittsburgh on Saturday (CBC, 7 p.m. ET). The Leafs play in Buffalo on Monday (Sportsnet Ontario, 7 p.m. ET).
|Three star selections