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Sundin secures playoff berth

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
DETROIT (Ticker) -- Mats Sundin needed two tries to get the puck past Manny Legace and the Toronto Maple Leafs needed three tries to clinch a playoff berth.

Sundin scored with 86 seconds left in overtime as the Maple Leafs squandered a two-goal lead before nailing down a postseason spot with a 5-4 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings.

Igor Larionov was denied after stickhandling deep in the Toronto zone and Sundin counterattacked 2-on-1. Using Alexander Mogilny as a decoy, Sundin carried down the right side, drifted into the slot and snapped a shot into the top right corner of the net.

It was Sundin's 38th goal of the season and ninth game-winner, moving him into a tie with St. Louis' Pavol Demitra for the league lead.

In the final minute of regulation, Sundin smashed his stick in frustration after goaltender Manny Legace stopped his point-blank wrist shot with the heel of his glove.

"We're up 4-2 and we had a lot of chances to end the game earlier, but we'll take the two points," Sundin said. "I thought we showed character to come back and get two points."

"A 2-on-1, you can't give Sundin too many opportunities in a night," Legace said. "I think he had three good scoring opportunities in the third. He's gonna capitalize on one of them, and he did in OT."

Defenscman Bryan McCabe set up Sundin's goal for one of his three assists and Jonas Hoglund ended a 15-game scoring drought for Toronto, which was coming off consecutive home losses.

"It bodes well for our confidence going into the playoffs to beat the Presidents' Trophy winner," Maple Leafs center Alyn McCauley. "We fought back and showed some character. It feels a little sweeter the way we had to draw it out today in overtime."

Toronto took a 4-2 lead into the third period, but Boyd Devereaux deflected defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom's shot past goalie Corey Schwab for his ninth goal at 11:20. It withstood a video replay to determine whether Devereaux used a high stick to tip the puck.

Detroit tied it just over four minutes later when Brendan Shanahan leveled defenceman Tomas Kaberle, drifted to the right side of the net and redirected Mathieu Dandenault's backhanded pass across the slot. But the Red Wings had to settle for the single point as their five-game unbeaten streak was snapped.

"A lot of giveaways, poor goaltending, the whole nine yards," Detroit coach Scotty Bowman said. "But that happens."

The teams combined for five goals in the Red Wings' highest-scoring first period since Halloween.

Larionov got things started 65 seconds into the game when he faked former teammate Anders Eriksson and put a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle past Schwab.

Hoglund tied it at 3:34, but Sergei Fedorov beat Schwab from the blue line just 25 seconds later to put Detroit back in front.

The lead lasted just over 4 1/2 minutes as Mogilny whipped a wrister from the bottom of the left circle by Legace for his 21st goal. Darcy Tucker gave the Leafs their first lead at 18:03, poking a rebound of his own deflection into the net for his 19th goal.

"I didn't play too well," Legace admitted. "The first period was awful, it was junk. I just didn't feel comfortable. The first goal was just a bad goal. The third goal was a bad goal. A little deflection, but it squeaked through."

Toronto opened a 4-2 cushion on the power play with 1:56 left in the second period as Mikael Renberg tipped McCabe's slap shot from the blue line past Legace for his 11th goal.

"In one sense, the team fought back and offensively, we really pushed," Shanahan said. "I just thought we didn't have enough respect when certain players were on the ice on the other team."

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