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Unlikely hero strikes again

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO - Cory Cross won't score many goals but when he does they are normally of a dramatic nature.

The Leafs defenceman scored his first goal of the season in overtime to gain a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.

It was the first time he has scored since netting the OT winner in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarter finals on April 16, 2001 against the Ottawa Senators.

"I've got a few game-winning goals in my career but I don't score many. I'm always excited to score and just help the team and add another point," Cross said of notching the important marker.

Mikael Renberg played little for the Leafs because of an injury.
Graig Abel Photography
The goal extended the Leafs' unbeaten streak to six games, nine at home, and gave Toronto its first win over the Islanders this season. The season series still falls in favour of New York, 2-1, with one more game to be played.

The emotional win comes on the heels of an inactive trading deadline for the Leafs. The team was searching for a veteran defenceman and GM/Coach Pat Quinn had targeted two guys but wasn't able to pull the trigger on a deal. Toronto will be giving rookie Karel Pilar a chance to fill the role.

"We talked to a lot of teams and nothing transpired and at the end of the day you go ahead with your hockey team," Quinn said. "We didn't feel pressed to do something we weren't comfortable with. It was a real buyer's market and we didn't have the wherewithal."

The one player the Leafs did pick up in a trade, netminder Tom Barrasso, will get to play some time this week but it isn't known when that will be. The biggest reason for that is the play of Corey Schwab. The 31-year-old, training-camp addition continues to play strong between the pipes.

Schwab stopped 26 shots for the victory, including a spectacular double-pad stack in OT to give the Leafs a chance at the valuable extra point.

"The more you win the more confident you get but I think it happens more as team," Schwab said before commenting on Barrasso waiting in the wings. "Obviously it's a good feeling to still play but he's going to get to play at some point."

The Leafs seem to be coming together more as the playoffs inch closer, especially defensively. Discounting the 5-5 tie with the Dallas Stars last Saturday, the team has allowed just six goals in its last five games. Injuries to Dmitry Yushkevich and Curtis Joseph have forced the team to tighten up, which will be a big help come April.

"We're doing everything we can to play as good as we can and we feel good as a team," Jyrki Lumme said. "It was kind of funny all the rumours and all the talk outside this room."

With the trade deadline over, the team playing solid defence, getting great goaltending and production from its stars - check out Mats Sundin's goal in the first period - things couldn't be smoother for Toronto. At least for now.

NOTES: The Leafs have a 5-6-2-1 record against the Atlantic Division, the only losing record they have against any division in the league ... Mikael Renberg played just 6:05 and didn't play after the second period. He continued to play with Robert Reichel and Travis Green when he was on the ice ... Travis Green continues to play strong. He scored a goal plus set up Cross's OT winner.
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