|Toronto Maple Leafs' Alex Steen hands the record-breaking puck to Mats Sundin.|
Sundin originally was awarded an assist on Tomas Kaberle’s goal at 7:15 of the second period of Toronto’s 8-1 rout of the New York Islanders on Thursday night – which would have made him the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. 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 said. “I’m very glad it ended the way it did. It would have been embarrassing otherwise.”
All it meant was that they would get the chance to cheer him again.
With the Leafs playing their best game of the season, Sundin came down the left wing midway through the third period and tried a pass across the slot. Instead, the puck his Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt and went into the net at 9:54, giving Sundin both the franchise mark for goals (390) and points (917). He had shared both records with Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler.
As Sundin went to the bench, his teammates stood and banged their sticks against the boards while the sellout crowd of 19,319 stood and cheered.
“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. “Tonight they were outstanding again and helped us play this game and helped us bounce back after a very disappointing game the other night.”
Sundin was one of eight Leafs who scored as Toronto routed the Isles, getting some revenge against the team that edged them out of the final Eastern Conference playoff berth last spring – and atoning for an awful 7-1 home loss to Carolina two nights earlier.
“Every team is going to lose at some part of the season – even the team winning the Stanley Cup,” said Sundin, who joined the Leafs in 1994. “It's how you respond after a loss like that, and I thought we responded well.”
Sundin was awarded all three stars and basked in a standing ovation from the sellout crowd at the Air Canada Centre after the game.
“My respect has grown every year as a player for this city, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the fans,” he said. “Hopefully, it's grown the same for me as a player.”
Islanders coach Ted Nolan also praised 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,” Nolan said. “He’s a heck of a player.”
The Islanders showed none of the emotion they had shown the previous night in a 2-1 home victory over the archrival Rangers.
"They played real well and with a lot of emotion," captain Bill Guerin said. "And the fact is we didn't. That wasn't acceptable.”
Hurricanes 5, Senators 3
Ottawa hadn’t lost since the last game of the Stanley Cup Final last spring – until the Hurricanes came to town.
Eric Cole scored twice and Chad Larose had three assists as Carolina, the 2006 Cup champs, ended Ottawa’s season-opening winning streak at five games.
“We've got to stop playing the opponent. We've got to start playing our game,” Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ve got great hockey players in there who are capable of good things on any night. Yeah, they have a good hockey team, obviously, but we've got a good team, too. We should just worry about ourselves.”
The Senators had won 12 in a row, including a perfect 7-0-0 preseason, but paid the price for not clearing the front of the net – the ’Canes first three goals all came off rebounds.
Cole scored on a power-play rebound at 17:11 of the first period and Matt Cullen swatted Larose’s rebound past ex-Hurricane Martin Gerber 1:10 into the second period. Larose also assisted on a second-period goal by Rod Brind’Amour and Cole’s second of the game early in the third period, giving Carolina a 4-1 lead.
“They were working hard and they were really aggressive,” Gerber said. “It was a tough grind. They really battled.”
Sabres 6, Thrashers 0
After a pair of losses to start the season, the Buffalo Sabres got healthy against a team that’s really struggling.
Ryan Miller stopped 20 shots for his fifth career shutout as Atlanta fell to 0-4-0.
“Not that I was slacking off in the summer, but I had to really put the pedal down because we
|Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller passes the puck during the second period of the Sabres' 6-0 win.|
The game was an emotional one for Miller, whose 18-year-old cousin died Monday after a complication with a bone-marrow transplant. ''For him to go through what he did wasn't easy,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. ''It was a special night for him. I wanted to see him get the shutout.”
The Thrashers, last season’s Southeast Division champs, have scored just four goals in the four losses. It’s their worst start since they went lost their first nine games to begin the 2002-03 season. They also played without star forward Marian Hossa, who’s out with a groin injury.
“Right now we're not playing good hockey,” coach Bob Hartley said. “We're so tight and anxious to get that first win that we forget to do the right things.”
Vokoun gave up nine goals on 49 shots in his first two games as a Panther, but stopped all 29 he faced against New Jersey to give Florida its first win of the season.
“It’s always important to have a good start,” Vokoun said. “It’s like a domino effect. It’s been tough for me, too. The people who brought me here expect me to do well. It was a rough start, a couple of tough games.”
Rostislav Olesz , Olli Jokinen and Nathan Horton scored for the Panthers, whose 0-3 start matched the worst in franchise history. The Devils paid the price for giving Florida six straight power plays, as Jokinen and Horton scored with the man advantage in the second period.
The Panthers acquired Vokoun from Nashville during the summer, but his early-season struggles drew criticism from coach and general manager Jacques Martin. Vokoun sat out Wednesday’s game at Tampa Bay, then rebounded against the Devils – who beat him 4-1 last Saturday – with his 22nd career shutout.
“Tonight he gave us a real good game,” Martin said. “He was the difference in the game.”
The Devils, nearing the halfway point of their nine-game season-opening trip, lost for the third time in four games – their worst start since 2001-02.
“The guys are competing and playing hard,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “It’s always tough to lose. Don't get me wrong – this losing is brutal. You've just got to deal with it.”
Coyotes 6, Predators 3
Fredrik Sjostrom, a scratch in Phoenix’s first three games, made a case for more playing time with two goals as the Coyotes won in Nashville for the first time since Oct. 22, 2002.
|Phoenix Coyotes right wing Fredrik Sjostrom, left, celebrates with Daniel Winnik after Sjostrom scored a goal against the Nashville Predators.|
“He was outstanding tonight,” Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “He came into the game with a vengeance and came with a lot of determination.”
Radek Bonk scored twice for Nashville, which lost for the second time in two nights.
“I think as a team and myself, we have to be a lot better – tonight’s performance was unacceptable,” Mason said. “We can’t just show up and expect to win. Last night (a 4-1 loss at St. Louis) we got outworked, and tonight we didn’t show up.”