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Russian stars shine bright

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO - There's a reason why Alexander Mogilny and Pavel Bure are the two highest scoring Russians in NHL history. They are good, real good.

Both players strutted their stuff with amazing precision on Thursday night but it was Bure who came away with the game-winning goal as the Rangers dropped the Leafs, 4-2, at Air Canada Centre.

Bure's second of the night capped the Rangers third straight win but it may be too little, too late for the surging club. They remain five points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Leafs however don't have playoff problems, they are having defence problems. The team has allowed 15 goals in its last four games, something that won't be acceptable in the playoffs.

Alex Mogilny drive to the net against the Rangers.
Graig Abel Photography
The lone bright spot for Toronto was Mogilny. He was a scoring threat on nearly every shift but ended up with just a goal and an assist. Rookie netminder Dan Blackburn, who stopped 37 shots for the win, stymied the winger on numerous occasions.

"I don't know how many shots we had but I guess he played well," Mogilny said before commenting on letting the Rangers jump out to a 2-0 first-period lead. "Certainly we didn't want to start the game the way we started it."

Bure and Mogilny have crossed paths many times during their hockey careers. They played on a line together with Sergei Fedorov at the 1989 World Junior Championships for Team Russia.

Pat Quinn selected Bure 113th overall for the Vancouver Canucks in the 1989 Entry Draft. Five years later, after a close run at the Cup, Mogilny was brought in to try and get them over the hump. Injuries to Bure prevented the tandem from really playing together. Both players were traded under new management.

To the outside observer the two seem similar because they both score pretty goals but by Quinn's assessment they aren't the same.

"They are different players. Both are very high skilled. Pavel to me is a very electric player, he's an opportunist, he very goal oriented - goal oriented for his own personal goals but also to score goals," Quinn said.

"Alex is perhaps a bit more rounded sort of player. Pavel makes plays but Alex has a REAL ability to make plays."

The biggest difference between the two is the fact Mogilny can wear his Stanley Cup ring. Bure can only dream about it. Winning changes players and it's always for the better.

"Alex has matured in a different way. Being part of that team (New Jersey) that won a Cup has been a big thing for him. He's probably better defensively than he once was. But at times he can be the best defensive player out there, that's just the kind of athlete he is."

The Rangers paid a heavy price for Bure and not just his $10 million price tag. If he can get them in the playoffs it might have been worth it. If not he'll be watching Mogilny take another shot at a championship. Just another variable that separates them.

NOTES: Mikael Renberg registered his 400th career point ... Mats Sundin picked up his 600th Leaf point ... Shayne Corson and Jyrki Lumme are possible for the Saturday's game against the Florida Panthers ... Curtis Joseph could take part in full practice (pucks included) with the team as soon as Friday ... Gary Roberts is on schedule to be back for the playoffs ... Dmitry Yushkevich is still undergoing tests and his return is still up in the air.
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