September 20, 2005
HAMILTON (CP) _ Ed Belfour isn't over the hill yet, and Jeff O'Neill and Mariusz Czerkawski might have productive seasons left in them too.
The three veterans played prominent roles in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 5-0 exhibition win over Boston on Tuesday night.
Belfour stopped all 14 Bruins shots in the 30 minutes he played in his first appearance against an NHL opponent since the 2004 playoffs.
A familiar "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie'' chant erupted from the capacity Copps Coliseum crowd of 18,000 when he frustrated Joe Thornton during a two-man Boston advantage. Belfour is 40 now, but heck, Johnny Bower was 42 when he helped the Leafs win their last NHL title in 1967.
O'Neill and Czerkawski, discarded by their previous teams, each scored.
Power-play goals by O'Neill and Ben Ondrus put Toronto up 2-0 in the first period.
Coach Pat Quinn used O'Neill on the point when Toronto got an early two-man advantage, and the six-foot-one right-winger blasted a shot past goalie Hannu Toivonen at 6:51.
O'Neill, 29, spent his first nine NHL seasons with the Carolina franchise, amassing 416 points including 198 goals in 673 games. But he scored only 14 times in 2003-2004. His wish to play for his home-city Leafs was fulfilled when he was acquired in July for a fourth-round 2006 draft pick.
Ondrus, standing in the middle of the Boston zone, slammed in a nifty John Pohl pass from the side boards at 8:08.
The two are likely headed to the AHL farm, where Ondrus, 23, the former junior star for the WHL's Swift Current Broncos, spent last winter. Pohl, 26, an American who was a college standout at Minnesota, played in the AHL at Worcester, Mass., last season and was acquired from St. Louis last month for a draft pick.
Jean-Francois Racine took over from Belfour in the middle of the second period and was just as sharp.
Czerkawski scored at 11:05 of the second when he slapped a shot through Toivonen's legs. It was the only even-strength goal of the night.
The 33-year-old Polish right-winger has 425 points including 207 goals in 710 NHL games with Boston, Edmonton, Montreal and the New York Islanders. He scored 25 for the Isles in 2003-2004 but GM Mike Milbury could only remember his playoff fade.
Leafs regular Darcy Tucker added another at 19:08 on a Kyle Wellwood feed from behind the net.
Defenceman Alexander Khavanov picked up three assists. The six-foot-two Russian, 33, was signed during the summer. He was an unrestricted free agent after playing four years for St. Louis. The Blues apparently had no interest in keeping him, but he might be good enough to catch on with the Leafs.
Pohl deflected a puck past Tim Thomas, who'd replaced Toivonen to start the third period, with two minutes left.
Toronto had lost 5-2 last Sunday at home against Ottawa, while Boston was playing its pre-season opener. The Leafs' edge in experience with the referees' crackdown on obstruction was obvious. There was a parade of Bruins to the penalty box. Toronto was 4-for-13 on power plays, while Boston was 0-for-5.
Notes: Leafs regulars sitting out were Aki Berg, Mats Sundin, Chad Kilger, Ken Klee (bruised heel), Alexei Ponikarovsky, Bryan McCabe, Tie Domi and Nik Antropov . . . Jason Allison (sore hip) remained unready to play . . . Bruins not on the ice included Glen Murray (sore ankle), Sergei Samsonov (strained back), Nick Boynton (holdout), Alex Zhamnov, Tom Fitzgerald, Shawn McEachern, Ian Moran, Hal Gill, and No. 1 goaltender Andrew Raycroft . . . Toivonen impressed with the Bruins' AHL farm team in Providence, R.I., last winter and is expected to get the backup job to Raycroft. Felix Potvin had the job last year but wasn't re-signed . . . Racine was Toronto's fourth pick, 90th overall, in 2000. The 23-year-old native of St-Hyacinthe, Que., split last season between St. John's of the AHL and Memphis of the Central Hockey League. He's one of six goalies in camp . . . Nathan Perrott and Colton Orr, who fought in the AHL last winter, dropped the gloves in an insignificant first-period tussle . . . Toronto's next pre-season game is Thursday against Montreal at Air Canada Centre . . . The Leafs announced the return to their junior teams of G Justin Pogge (Calgary, WHL) and D Phil Oreskovic (Brampton, OHL).