by John McCauley
April 30, 2004
(TORONTO) -- The goat horns could have been firmly embedded in the head of Bryan McCabe if Mats Sundin hadn't played the part of a Toronto Maple Leafs' saviour once again.
Sundin scored the game-tying and game-winning goals as the Leafs drew even with the Philadelphia Flyers with a 3-1 victory in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal, Friday night at Air Canada Centre. The markers moved the captain into second place on the Leafs' all-time playoff points list behind only Doug Gilmour.
No one was happier to see Sundin achieve the record than McCabe. The defenceman and Leafs' leading playoff points producer was on the hook for a horrendous giveaway right in the middle of the slot during the first period. Flyers' winger Simon Gagne was there to wrist home the game's opening goal just under the glove hand of Ed Belfour.
| Sundin celebrates his second goal on the night. |
(Graig Abel Photography)
Considering the defensive style of Philadelphia, an early lead was the last thing Toronto wanted to give their foe.
"Teams play differently when they score first, especially good defensive teams like Philadelphia. They're so strong (defensively), then they get a counter game going. When you're down you have to start taking chances." Quinn said. "We did look tight early on. That first goal could have been really devastating,"
Veterans shake those kind of mistakes off, but making matters worse for McCabe was a highlight pack during the following stoppage, which unluckily focused on him. The dead silent crowd tried to shake off the memories of his miscue while watching some of his more glorious moments from this year's run.
It got even worse from there.
Just 20 seconds later McCabe was tagged with a hooking penalty. If the Flyers had scored on that powerplay the defenceman might not have made it to his car alive, but the penalty killers bailed him out.
"Stuff like that happens. We're a veteran team and we didn't let it bother us," McCabe said. "I looked up to find Gary or Alex and then the puck just wasn't there. It was a bad break, I kind of hung Eddie out to dry, but we just kept on going and stuck together. I proceeded to get a penalty after so it was frustrating shift."
No matter how bad it may have seemed it was almost all forgotten after Sundin tied things up. His wrist shot from just above the faceoff circle was headed for Alex Mogilny, but it deflected off of Marcus Ragnarsson and between the legs of Robert Esche.
The Super Swede kept his strong play going in the second making a beautiful move on a 3-on-2 rush for his second tally of the night and third of the postseason.
With Roberts and Mogilny driving to the net, Sundin carved towards the slot and slid a backhand underneath a crowd to give the Leafs the lead.
Later on in the period Brian Leetch sent him in alone on a breakaway, but he hit crossbar.
"He's inspired right now." Quinn said. "I've said it before, I think he's terrific. He's a little disappointed right now for missing that breakaway, but it was a heck of a play."
McCabe's night came full circle when he set up Darcy Tucker for the insurance marker in the third.
Looking ahead to Game 5, the Flyers believe they can play better, despite losing back-to-back games for the first time in this playoff.
"It's a best of three now. They kept their home ice and now we have to go home and keep ours," Mark Recchi said.
Outspoken Jeremy Roenick wasn't about to give the Leafs any bulletin board material.
"There's no question we can play better," said Roenick "Everybody knew it was going to be a great series and it's turned out to be."
"I guess for me personally I'm a Leafs fan. I'm always going to be a Leafs fan no matter where I end up in my career. I think it's special this time of year for all the people of Toronto. The players sense it and feel it just as much as the fans do."
-- Darcy Tucker, on what it's like being in the playoffs while a member of the Leafs.