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Every Dog Has It's Day

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) -- Ed Belfour won one for his dog, Sunny, on Friday night.

The pooch, wearing a miniature Maple Leafs jersey, was carried to centre ice by Belfour's son Dayn during a pre-game ceremony that also included Belfour's wife Ashli.

The festivities were to mark the veteran goaltender's 448th win last Monday that moved him into second place on the all-time list. The ceremony included a presentation on behalf of the team by Johnny Bower of framed scoresheets of his first NHL game and the 448th win, and taped messages from two other Hockey Hall of Fame goalies.

"I couldn't control myself,'' said Belfour. "I had tears in my eyes.

"I was real surprised both Tony Esposito and Vladislav Tretiak were sending those beautiful messages to me. I really appreciated it.''

Belfour then stopped 25 shots in one of his best performances of the season in a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins in front of a capacity Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,400.

He was asked about Sunny afterwards.

"She's a great dog,'' said a grinning Belfour. "She's always there cheering me on.

"She wears my jersey every game.''

His teammates revelled in Sunny's appearance.

"We talked about that after the game,'' said Belfour. "The guys wanted to put her in the stall beside me.''

Bryan McCabe and Darcy Tucker scored for the Leafs, who wiped away the bad taste of a 4-1 loss Thursday in Boston.

Sergei Samsonov scored for the Bruins, who lost despite an heroic effort by goaltender Hannu Toivonen.

"I'm really disappointed to lose a tight game like that,'' said the 21-year-old Finn. "That was a game that was up for grabs.

"It's a tough loss.''

Shots were 7-7 and the score 0-0 after an evenly-played opening period.

Toronto was two men short when Samsonov opened the scoring with his 14th goal at 4:21 of the second period. Brian Leetch sent a cross-ice pass that Samsonov slammed in from the bottom of the circle to Belfour's right.

Boston was two men short when Tucker tied it with his 15th at 8:14. Tomas Kaberle delivered the cross-ice pass that Tucker fired in from the bottom of the circle to Toivonen's left.

"We've played with each other long enough to know where to go and what to do,'' Tucker said of the connection with Kaberle.

The Bruins outshot the Leafs 13-8 in the second period. Belfour preserved the tie in the dying seconds when he kicked out his right leg to get a skate on a Leetch shot.

It would be decided in the third.

Toronto got another two-man advantage when Milan Jurcina was sent off for hooking at 5:49 and David Tanabe for delay of game at 7:03. Kaberle slid the puck to McCabe, and it was behind Toivonen in a flash, stopping the clock at 7:52.

It was the 12th goal for the highest-scoring defenceman in the NHL, who has scored most of them on set-ups by Kaberle.

"He always does,'' McCabe replied when it was pointed out that Kaberle usually manages to get him the in the perfect spot for him to fire a slapshot. "Good players can do that, and he's one of those guys.''

Tanabe had been penalized for lifting the puck into the crowd in his own zone. It's a penalty that was introduced this season, and the Bruins were the latest team to pay the price.

"We can't give a team like that five-on-threes,'' said Tanabe. "The special teams were the difference in the game.''

Toronto got chances to pad its lead when Alexei Zhamnov took three consecutive penalties, but Toivonen wouldn't yield.

The Leafs had a 13-6 shots advantage in the third period, and a 28-26 edge on the night.

Toronto was 2-for-10 and Boston 1-for-5 on power plays.

"We took too many penalties in the third,'' said Toivonen. "It's really hard to win when you take that many penalties.''

The Leafs now get to enjoy Christmas feeling good about winning their last game before the holiday. They'll be back in action at home Monday against New Jersey.

"We have to build on that,'' McCabe said of the win. "If we can play that way game after game we'll be successful most nights.''

Ironically, Sunny is a Boston terrier.

Notes: Suzie McNeil, a semifinalist in the recent TV series to pick a singer for the band INXS, sang the anthems. She started laughing after she repeated a line in the U.S. anthem, regained temporary sanity and warbled on ... Eric Lindros (wrist), Nik Antropov (knee) and Alex Steen (thumb) remained out of the Leafs lineup ... After the game against the Devils, the Leafs play in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and are back home for a game against Buffalo on Thursday.

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