December 6, 2003
GAME: Detroit Red Wings (15-9-3-0) at Toronto Maple Leafs (14-6-5-2). TIME:
Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are often forgotten when the NHL's best teams are mentioned.
Extending a seven-game winning streak against one of the league's elite clubs may be enough to change that.
Toronto tries to extend its longest win streak in more than a decade when it hosts the surging Detroit Red Wings.
Joe Nieuwendyk and Darcy Tucker each scored twice and Ed Belfour made 25 saves for his second shutout of the season Thursday, leading Toronto to a 6-0 victory at Boston.
Owen Nolan set up three goals for the Maple Leafs, winners of seven straight for the first time since a franchise-record 10-game streak from Oct. 7-28, 1993.
"I didn't know about the 10 wins, but the most important thing is to do the little things we've done these past three weeks, home and road," captain Mats Sundin said.
"When we get complicated, we get in trouble."
The streak has moved Toronto into first place in the Northeast Division and pulled it within striking distance of Philadelphia for the NHL's best record. The Leafs have outscored opponents 27-12 over the past seven games.
"We have never had a better dressing room since I've been here and the mood is the best that I've ever seen," Leafs forward Tie Domi said. "Nolan has been playing exceptionally well and it is a veteran bunch that is having fun."
Since missing four games with back spasms, Nieuwendyk has three goals and four assists in four games. Nolan has four goals and 10 points in his last seven contests after totaling 10 points in his first 20 games this season.
Toronto's streak includes two wins over Vancouver and one against Ottawa, but Saturday's matchup could be the Leafs' most difficult challenge. Detroit, tied for the Western Conference lead with 33 points, has outscored opponents 26-8 during a 4-0-1 streak.
Brett Hull capped a four-goal third period with his 730th career goal, as the Red Wings rallied for a 4-4 tie at St. Louis on Thursday.
"Huge point considering we were down 3-0 and then 4-2," Detroit coach Dave Lewis said. "Our guys really stepped up. We got some dirty goals tonight. We hadn't been getting those."
Hull has goals in five straight games and nine in his last 11. His next goal will tie him with Marcel Dionne for third place on the NHL list.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 4): Red Wings - 33 points, 1st place, Central Division. Maple Leafs - 35 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Red Wings - Hull, 14 goals; Pavel Datsyuk, 16 assists; Hull and Datsyuk, 27 points; Darryl Bootland, 63 PIM. Maple Leafs - Sundin and Tucker, 9 goals; Sundin, 16 assists and 25 points; Nolan, 71 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 4): Red Wings - Power play: 24.8 percent (28 for 113), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (90 for 107), . Maple Leafs - Power play: 17.3 percent (24 for 139), 11th. Penalty killing: 83.5 percent (116 for 139), 19th.
GOALTENDERS: Red Wings - Dominik Hasek (7-3-2, 2 SO, 2.23 GAA); Manny Legace (6-3-1, 1, 2.01). Maple Leafs - Belfour (11-8-3, 2, 2.44); Trevor Kidd (1-0-0, 2.00).
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Red Wings, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 27; Red Wings, 7-2. At Detroit, Hull had two goals and an assist and Henrik Zetterberg also scored twice for the Red Wings.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Red Wings - 6-6-3-0 on the road; Maple Leafs - 5-2-1-1 at home.