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Roberts stars on Broadway

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- It had been 16 games since Gary Roberts scored a goal and 3 1/2 years since he recorded a hat trick.

Both droughts ended Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Roberts scored his first three goals in five weeks and Mats Sundin got the go-ahead tally midway through the third period as the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled away for a 6-3 victory over the New York Rangers.

Roberts broke out of his slump in a big way, scoring twice in a three-goal second period and capping a three-goal third with his second power-play tally of the night. The hat trick was the 12th of his career and first since April 9, 1998, when he was a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

"Has it been that long? You know the stats better than I do," Roberts joked. "It feels great anytime you contribute offensively. You try and play well on both ends of the rink and it's been a bit of a struggle for me. I wouldn't lie to you. It hasn't been as successful a year as I would have liked. But there is still lots of games left."

Shayne Corson halted a 12-game drought, scoring 51 seconds after Roberts near the end of second period. But Sundin got the decisive goal with 10:21 to go in the third.

Mikael Renberg flipped a shot off the right boards that was kicked out by goaltender Mike Richter. Sundin got the long rebound at the left faceoff dot and slid a backhander along the ice and between Richter's pads for his team-best 14th goal.

"There was a shot and I got a good bounce off (Richter's) pad," Sundin said. "He had to stretch out a little bit and it bounced out good for me, and I was able to get a good shot at it and had lots of time to shoot it."

"You don't let that one in, maybe the game is a little bit different," Richter said. "We still didn't battle quite as much as we needed to. We ended up giving up some tough goals and it became really hard to recover."

Jonas Hoglund converted Sundin's cross-ice pass off a 2-on-1 less than three minutes later and Roberts put a short backhander between Richter's pads with 4:59 remaining to finish off the Maple Leafs' third win in four games.

It was coach Pat Quinn's 500th NHL victory.

"It's a great number, obviously, and it simply means I have had some real good teams and real good players. And to do it here, games are always exciting here," Quinn said. "I've always enjoyed coming into this building as a player and a coach, and to get it here is really nice."

Mark Messier had a power-play goal and an assist for New York, which has lost two in a row following a four-game unbeaten streak.

Messier had the only goal of the opening period, scoring off his own rebound on the power play at 12:34. But he was bothered by back spasms for much of the third period.

Andreas Johansson, who had a goal disallowed in the first period, doubled the Rangers' lead 2:12 into the second. But Roberts answered six minutes later, deflecting Tie Domi's shot between Richter's pads for his first goal since October 30.

"Tie Domi told me today he had a feeling I was going to get a couple tonight. So it was only fitting that his first shot went off the heel of my stick and went through Richter's five-hole," Roberts said.

Roberts tied it on the power play with 2:31 to go in the period, skating out from behind the net and stuffing the puck between Richter's pads. Less than a minute later, Corson got his first goal since November 9 when he converted Alexander Mogilny's centering pass.

Defenseman Vladimir Malakhov lifted New York into a 3-3 tie at 3:41 of the third period off a brilliant backhanded feed from Theo Fleury.

"There was a big change of momentum there. We came back in the third and tied it up and we let it slip away," Rangers center Eric Lindros said.
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