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Leetch Makes Leafs Debut A Win

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Vs. NYI: Scoring | Stats

Leafs Lines:

Defence Pairings: McCabe-Leetch, Kaberle-Klee, Berg-Pilar
Belfour (w 60:00, 19 SV, 2 GA), Kidd (0:00)
Belak (knee)
Healthy scratches:
Johnson, Marchment, Perrott, Fitzgerald, Stajan

TORONTO (AP) -- Brian Leetch sounded far from thrilled to be a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs despite an impressive debut.

Leetch had three assists in the Maple Leafs' 6-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Acquired on Wednesday from the New York Rangers, Leetch donned a different uniform for the first time in his 17-season NHL career.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner made an immediate impact, setting up two power-play goals by Bryan McCabe and one by Mats Sundin.

"Everything went well right off the bat," Leetch said. "It made it a lot easier for me. It's been a whirlwind day."

Leetch said he would have preferred to finish his career in New York. He didn't sound happy that he wasn't consulted before the trade.

"It's done with now," said Leetch, who learned of the deal when he got a call in a hotel room in Boston. "It was a 212 number from New York City and I said, 'This is probably not good."

Leetch said he had a short conversation with Rangers general manager Glen Sather.

"It was just shocking. I didn't really have anything to say," Leetch said. "Mark Messier is my roommate. We didn't have much to say to each other. We just kind of got out of there."

The game was a blur for the veteran defenceman.
(Graig Abel Photography)

Robert Reichel, Gary Roberts and Darcy Tucker also scored for the Maple Leafs, who have won three straight with No. 1 goalie Ed Belfour back in net.

Belfour, plagued recently by a sore back, was rarely tested as the Islanders managed just three shots in the first 33 minutes. Toronto outshot New York 24-18, including 9-2 in the first period.

Leetch assisted on Sundin's power-play goal at 7:02 of the first by threading a pass to Roberts, who passed to Sundin in front of the net.

McCabe's one-timer from the blue line after Leetch's pass made it 2-0 at 12:25.

"I expect him to have a four- or five-point night from here on in every night," Toronto coach Pat Quinn joked. "He was very good."

Reichel scored with 54 seconds left in the first after goaltender Rick DiPietro went down before the shot, and Roberts' tip-in gave Toronto a 4-0 lead midway through the third.

Leetch faked a shot before passing to McCabe, whose one-timer during a two-man advantage made it 5-0.

Trent Hunter and Mark Parrish scored power-play goals in the third for New York.

"When a team makes a big trade like that it's going to have a positive impact on their lineup, especially with a guy of the calibre of Brian Leetch," Islanders captain Michael Peca said.

Tucker got his 20th of the season at 16:30.

Excited that Leetch might improve Toronto's chances to win its first Stanley Cup since 1967, fans gave the star defenceman a huge ovation when he was introduced before the game.

Leetch played a huge role in helping the Rangers win the 1994 Stanley Cup, their first since 1940. He had 11 goals and 23 assists in 23 playoff games to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

One fan held up a sign that read: "Welcome to the playoffs Leetch." The Rangers haven't made the postseason in seven years.

Game Notes: The Maple Leafs gave up defenceman Maxim Kondratiev, forward Jarkko Immonen, a first-round pick in this year's draft and a second-round choice in 2005 for Leetch. ... Official Ray Scapinello dropped to the ice after being hit by Adrian Aucoin's clearing attempt in the first. Oleg Kvasha also nailed Scapinello in the head with a clearing attempt in the third. Scapinello took a little longer to get up the second time. ... The Maple Leafs have outshot their opponents 43-12 in the first period of the last three games. ... Toronto's Joe Nieuwendyk didn't return after leaving with back spasms in the first period.

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