December 3, 2005
(Toronto) -- Mats Sundin continued his climb to the top of the Toronto Maple Leafs all-time scoring list Saturday night despite a 5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Sundin assisted on Darcy Tucker's first period goal to pass Borje Salming and move into sole possession of third place on the scoring list. Sundin now has 769 points with the Maple Leafs and he only trails Dave Keon (858) and Darryl Sittler (916).
Fellow Swede Alex Steen was happy for his captain but he knew that the result of the game wasn't what the team wanted.
"It's nice for him to achieve that milestone but I don't think that's what he's thinking about now," Steen said.
Despite the loss, the Maple Leafs again saw encouraging signs from the team's youngsters.
Steen was instrumental in getting the Maple Leafs off to a quick start in the first when he had two assists.
He has played extremely well on the top line with Sundin, his fellow countryman. The two have noticeable chemistry on the ice and that was evident again Saturday night. Steen and Sundin found each other numerous times for scoring chances as they had their way with the young Sharks defence.
"I think it's gotten better and better as the games have gone on but I still think there is room for improvement," Steen said. "With Darcy Tucker on the line it's a line that can get a lot of opportunities which would be good for the team."
From the first day of training camp, head coach Pat Quinn praised Steen for being an excellent two-way player at such a young age. Steen most times is the first forward back in his zone and for that Quinn has rewarded him by playing him in all situations.
"It's mostly positioning I think, it's reading the play, not taking risks, just reading and making sure that they don't get many chances in our end," Steen said about his solid positioning.
The Maple Leafs are getting contributions not just from Steen but other youngsters Kyle Wellwood, Matt Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov, Carlo Colaiacovo and Staffan Kronwall who was doing exceptionally well before injuring his left knee.
"It has a lot to do with the new rule changes that really opened spots for younger guys to get in the league," Steen said.
Ever since Ponikarovsky and Antropov were put with Jason Allison, they have been a force not only in the offensive zone but also killing penalties. It was Ponikarovsky who had a beauty short-handed goal when the Leafs played Atlanta last Thursday.
Ponikarovsky had an assist on Allison's third period goal to pull the Leafs closer at 5-4 but the Leafs weren't able to tie the game in the final seconds of the game.
The Leafs' third goal was scored by Stajan, his first in a month with assists to Wellwood and Colaiacovo.
Steen was quick to give credit to his older teammates for providing encouragement and a good atmosphere for the younger players to be around.
"The big thing is all the older guys," he said. "They are key to that, making sure that we're always comfortable and being the leaders that they are."
Steen and the Maple Leafs look to get back in the win column on Tuesday when they host the Los Angeles Kings at 7:30 p.m.