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Big Third Powers Leafs To Win

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs


TORONTO (CP) -- Pat Quinn would love to include Bryan McCabe on Canada's Olympic hockey team.

The coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and of the Winter Games team won't have the only say, of course. Wayne Gretzky, architect of the Winter Games roster, will make the final picks, but a bit of improvement defensively and McCabe will be impossible to overlook.

There certainly can be no gripes about his play offensively. He set up two goals and scored his fifth of the season in a 6-4 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. He regained the lead in scoring among all NHL defencemen with 20 points. The Olympic roster will be announced in about five weeks.

"I'm not really thinking that far ahead,'' Quinn said. "We've got good offensive play from him but we need better play from him at the other end.''

Leafs captain Mats Sundin won't be surprised if McCabe is wearing Canada's colours in Turin in February.

"Bryan has proved the last three years that he's one of the top defencemen in the league,'' said the big Swede. "It doesn't come as a surprise.

"He's one of the most dedicated players on and off the ice. The way he prepares for games and practices is second to none, and it shows on the ice.''

Sundin, Chad Kilger, Jeff O'Neill, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Carlo Colaiacovo also scored for the Leafs, 8-6-2, in front of a capacity Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,421.

Sundin scored the winning goal and since the start of the 2000-2001 season has more winning goals, 34, than any other NHL player.

The goal was his 332nd in a Toronto uniform, tying him with Ron Ellis for third on the club's all-time list.

Washington, 6-9-0, led 2-0 after one period on goals by Alex Ovechkin and Ben Clymer. Toronto scored the next five goals. Ovechkin and Matt Pettinger added goals for the Capitals in the third.

Ovechkin leads all NHL rookies with 12 goals. He was so good Tuesday night that, despite his team's loss, he was named the game's first star.

"The bigger the game and the bigger the stage, the better he plays,'' said coach Glen Hanlon. "Tonight was a good example.''

Clymer and Ovechkin beat Ed Belfour in the first period. Toronto seized control in the second and tied it on goals by Kilger and O'Neill on setups by McCabe.

"We played pretty well in the first but the two chances we gave them they happened to score,'' said McCabe. "We stayed patient and wound up tying it in the second.

"We keep the same amount of work up and we'll be fine.''

The Leafs kept pouring it on and Ponikarovsky, McCabe and Sundin added goals for a 5-2 lead.

That it was it for Kolzig. Hanlon sent in Brent Johnson.

After Ovechkin's second goal of the night, Colaiacovo got his first NHL goal. Johnson blocked the long shot with his arm, and the puck bounced over the arm and over the goal-line.

"I can take 'em any way I can get 'em,'' said Colaiacovo. "It's one of those funny ones to remember - a hot potato.''

Pettinger scored a late goal to wrap up the scoring.

Toronto outshot Washington 34-30.

"We're shooting a lot more,'' said McCabe. "It's something we worked on in practice, getting the puck to the net.

"That's when good things are going to happen. Guys were going to the net hard.''

Sundin echoed Quinn's concern about defence.

"Overall, as a team we are scoring some goals but we're still have a lot of work to do,'' he said. "If we want to compete with Ottawa and the other top teams in our conference we have to do better in our own end.

"We have talent in here to be one of the top teams in this league but right now we're not good enough defensively. We got a win, and it was a big win for us, but we've got to keep getting better. But we can build on this win.''

Hanlon was pleased with his team's effort.

"I think we're a fun team to watch,'' he said. "I thought our guys were great.

`We get down three goals with eight minutes left and we're competing. These young kids are awesome. We feel great about our guys.''

Notes: Toronto was 2-for-10 and Washington 1-for-7 on power plays . . . Quinn used rookie Alex Steen with Sundin and O'Neill . . . C Nik Antropov returned after missing nine games with a knee injury . . . Colaiacovo was called up from the AHL's Toronto Marlies to replace D Aki Berg (sprained knee). An approving cheer greeted the announcement Berg wouldn't be playing . . . F-D Wade Belak, RW Mariusz Czerkawski and C Clarke Wilm were healthy scratches . . . C Andrew Cassels was a healthy Washington scratch for a third consecutive game, while RW Dainius Zubrus was back in after missing three with a sore groin . . . Ovechkin wears 8 because it is the number his mother Tatiana wore in winning Olympic basketball gold medals in 1976 and 1980 . . . Next game for the Leafs is against the Sabres in Buffalo on Friday night (TSN, 8 p.m. ET).


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