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Follow the Leader

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs



by Matthew Iaboni

April 11, 2006

(TORONTO) -- Thanks to the efforts of captain Mats Sundin, the Maple Leafs playoff hopes are still alive.
Tomas Kaberle had the game winner.
(Graig Abel Photography)

Sundin led the attack, scoring four goals, adding two assists as he continues to try and will his team to playoffs. He registered six points, the most he has ever scored with the Blue and White. What kind of a roll has Sundin been on?

He now has registered 18 points in his last nine games. The six points by Sundin tied Charlie Conacher, Ted Kennedy, Babe Pratt, Doug Gilmour and Dave Keon for third most points in a game by a Leaf. Darryl Sittler holds the team and NHL record with 10 points in a game and he also had a seven point game to his credit.

How did he account for the big night?

"Sometimes the puck bounces your way," Sundin said. "Tonight, hey, I played a good game but it was a night where the puck seems to follow you, and every shot you take goes in the net. That's sports. I'm just happy that it happened tonight.''

Head coach Pat Quinn was astounded with the efforts of number 13.

"It was quite a performance," Quinn said. "He's been playing well for a while. He has high standards anyway. A game like tonight he was all over, he wanted the puck, killed penalties, won faceoffs."

From the first shift of the game when Sundin set up Nik Antropov it was evident that Sundin was on his game.

After the Panthers took a 4-3 lead early in the third, Sundin recorded his seventh career hat trick, third with the Maple Leafs to tie it at 4. Captain Mats wasn't done however as he gave the Leafs the lead on his fourth of the game.

It appeared the scoring was over but after the Panthers tied it late to send it to overtime it was Sundin who spun and fed Tomas Kaberle for the game winner.

"It's two big points and we're not going to give up," Kaberle said. With the win and a Tampa Bay loss, the Leafs find themselves five points back of the eighth playoff spot with four games to play.

Kaberle has played with Sundin for the last seven seasons but he had never seen his friend and teammate like this.

"No never," Kaberle said. "He has been like this every year and he shows it on and off the ice."

The onslaught of shots was something new for the Blue and White this season. It was the first time that the Leafs recorded over 40 shots in a game as they finished with 53 on the night.

A performance like this was particularly inspirational for the young players on the team.

"The main reason was Mats, it wasn't much of the other guys," Kyle Wellwood said. "For him to come in and be the best player every night is unbelievable."

Quinn realizes that players are leaders in different ways but he definitely wants the younger players to follow Sundin.

"You always learn from watching, Mats always leads by example," Quinn said. "That is what some of our guys have to learn, you have to make yourself want to be a better player. As you get older you don't have to lower the bar you have to keep it the same."

Joe Nieuwendyk had four points in the loss but he had nothing but admiration for Sundin.

"Mats is a great captain and a good friend," he said. "He's the leader of that team. He cares as much as any captain I've played with and you can't say enough about him."

Sundin will look for a repeat performance Thursday on Long Island and the rest of the way.
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