|Mats Sundin scored the game-winner with just 29.2 seconds remaining in regulation.|
Cliff Notes – Twenty-four hours after new Toronto interim GM Cliff Fletcher gave his “Win … or else!” speech, the Maple Leafs responded by edging the Washington Capitals in a 3-2 victory at Air Canada Centre.
Mats Sundin – who was acquired by Fletcher during the latter’s first tenure as Leafs’ GM in 1994 – potted the game-winner with just 29.2 seconds remaining in regulation. It gave Fletcher his first victory since replacing John Ferguson, Jr. in the front office.
“With everything that’s happened, we all feel pressure to win,” Sundin said. “Everybody feels it's time to pull up the socks.”
The win pulled the Maple Leafs within two games of the .500 mark at 20-22-8. Despite the season-long circus, Toronto is just five points behind the Boston Bruins for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs have won four straight after losing five in a row.
“There was a lot of talk surrounding the team the last six weeks and we've tried to keep our focus,” Leafs forward Chad Kilger said. “We know we have a good team. We just have to prove it.”
Really, it’s now or never for these Leafs. Much like the maligned Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto remains in the playoff race despite a tumultuous season. If the Leafs can’t maintain such performances, you can believe Fletcher when he says changes will be made.
What A Game! – Wednesday night’s battle between the Wings and Ducks in Anaheim had everything – including another sizzling performance from the ageless Dominik Hasek as Detroit edged Anaheim 2-1.
The soon-to-be 43-year-old was sensational at the Honda Center, as he finished with 24 saves. He kept the defending champions off the scoreboard until Chris Pronger finally solved the Detroit netminder midway through the third period.
The Red Wings are now 9-1 in their last 10 games away from Joe Louis Arena. Wednesday was a statement game for Hasek, who was 0-3-0 with a 4.10 GAA in his last three starts in Anaheim.
“It was a game we sort of expected,” Hasek said. “They came at us very physical, but we said to ourselves that we have to be as physical as they are, especially in the first period. I think it is a big rivalry. They are the Stanley Cup champions and they play like champions. They beat us last year (in the playoffs) and most of the time we lose in this building, so this was a big game for us to show them we can win in this building also.”
Let’s face it … the Red Wings can win in any building. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch of these teams this postseason. Sequels usually aren’t as good, but I see “Godfather II” written all over this one.
Finally! – It took 19 tries, but the Vancouver Canucks finally came back in the third period.
Alain Vigneault’s squad was 0-17-1 when trailing after 40 minutes, but Mattias Ohlund (2 goals) scored in the third period, and Roberto Luongo was a brick wall in the shootout as the Canucks earned a 3-2 victory against the reeling St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
Luongo’s performance certainly put his mind at ease. The Canucks’ netminder was challenged by Vigneault to rise to the occasion, which No. 1 clearly did to help Vancouver snap a four-game skid.
“We definitely didn't want to end on a losing note heading into the (All-Star) break,” Luongo said. “I started feeling comfortable in the third period and made a couple of big saves. We got a big goal in the third to tie it up and then were just able to preserve it until the shootout. It was huge and my break's going to be a little more pleasant now.”
“Without Luongo in the third it would have been an easy win for us,” said Legace, who will be in Atlanta this weekend. “He played unbelievable. It's very impressive to watch that man.”
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.