Leafs 5 v. Flames 4 (OT): Captain Clutch Notches Milestone
There are a few painful truths (aside from no Cups in 40 years) that are part and parcel of being a Maple Leafs' fan.
- If they trade a prospect/player away then you will have to watch him kill the Leafs every time he returns to Toronto.
- If a team is struggling then they will find that the Leafs are a cure-all for their ills.
- If a local boy is playing in front of his friends and family then get him in your pool because he is going to light up the Leafs.
Saturday night the Leafs managed to overcome the last two thanks to their captain's amazing game. On a night that saw the Leafs allow a Calgary team to almost match their goal output for the season and local product Mark Giordano scored his first two NHL goals Captain Clutch showed why his name is bandied about as one of the best Leafs ever.
Mats Sundin continued his great play to start the season and led the new run and gun offence with a man of the match 4-point performance. On the powerplay he took a Bryan McCabe pass and buried the feed into the open net. With the score tied at 3 Mats took a Darcy Tucker drop pass and ripped a wicked wrist shot over Kipper's right shoulder to give the Leafs the lead once more. With a sense for the occassion and the dramatic Mats waited until it looked like the Leafs would once again have to settle for 'at least we got a point'. Tucker was called for hooking (or lifting the stick) with 8 seconds to go in the game leaving Toronto shorthanded in overtime. Undeterred, the captain muscled the puck from the Flames, drove up ice, and ripped a trademark slapper over Kiprusoff's glove hand to win the game, complete his hat trick, and notch his 500th goal. In doing so, Mats became the first Leaf to score his 500th goal in the blue and white.
The rest of the game is easily relegated to meaningless in light of the captain's heroics but there were some matters of importance. Brendan Bell returned to action and did not look out of place on the blueline. Mike Peca missed the game as a precaution due to a hip flexor problem. His absence was especially felt because John Pohl, who picked up the ice-time, did not have a good game. He was weak on the puck, looked a step behind the entire game, and his turnover led directly to the Flames' 4th goal. Alexander Steen finally broke his goose egg with a less than pretty goal. Lying in the crease after crashing the net he had the presence of mind to sweep at a loose puck to tie the game at 3s.
All in all, it was a good effort from the Leafs. They let the Flames get back in the game and get into the lead but they also managed to maintain their composure and not let the game get away from them. The lapses in concentration are worrying but on such a magical night they can be swept under the rug. Although they better not keep coughing up leads because who knows how long the Leafs will lead the NHL in scoring.
In honour of the captain's achievements he gets the only say in...
The Final Word
"It's certainly a fun way to get my 500th goal. It's a special way," he said later. "I'm very proud of it. It's an achievement not many players have reached in this league and, once I'm retired, I'm going to appreciate it even more. I'll remember this game for my whole life."
Mats Sundin, Captain Clutch, who will be sorely missed in Toronto when he retires.