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Wellwood Pockets a Pair in Leafs Win

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

September 22, 2005

TORONTO (CP) - Steve Thomas didn't even smile when he scored.

Thomas knew coming into camp as a 42-year-old walk-on that he'd have to be so good during the pre-season that the Toronto Maple Leafs would have no alternative but to offer him a contract and extend his NHL career.

But the one goal he's scored in two exhibitions, contributing to a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, probably isn't enough to prompt GM John Ferguson to sign him and deny a much younger player already in the organization and battling for a promotion - such as Kyle Wellwood - a shot at proving himself in the big league.

Wellwood's two-goal effort drove the point home. Bryan McCabe also scored for Toronto (2-1).

Jan Bulis, Tomas Plekanec and Pierre Dagenais scored for Montreal (2-1), which used few of its regulars.

McCabe opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 14:01. The veteran defenceman slapped a low drive from the blue-line past Yann Danis, who was screened by Nik Antropov.

Bulis tied it at 16:58 when he beat Jean-Francois Racine with a high slapper from the middle of Toronto's zone. The veteran forward had 49 points - including 24 goals - with Pardubice in his Czech homeland in 2004-2005 and Montreal GM Bob Gainey hopes he'll be just as productive this season. The most goals Bulis scored in any of his seven previous NHL seasons was 16 in 2002-2003.

Wellwood put Toronto up 2-1 at 4:00 of the second period. The five-foot-10 centre faked a pass on a 2-on-1 rush to keep defenceman Craig Rivet guessing and lifted a wrist shot from close range over Danis' catching mitt.

Wellwood, 22, a second-year pro from Windsor, Ont., had 87 points - including 38 goals - for Toronto's AHL farm team last season and will make it to the NHL soon if not this autumn.

Mikael Tellqvist replaced Racine and Carey Price took over from Danis mid-way through the second period.

Thomas scored at 14:25 to end a scramble. Darcy Tucker rushed to hug him, and the 18,853 spectators gave the loudest cheer of the night to the winger who was one of Toronto's most popular players during two previous stints with the team. But Thomas didn't celebrate. He was well aware that it might have been too little, too late, to earn a roster spot.

Injuries limited Thomas to 44 games with the Detroit Red Wings in 2003-2004. He had 10 goals and 12 assists.

Wellwood scored again at 19:45 of the second, and he should send Mark Streight a thank-you card in appreciation for the terrible pass the Swiss defenceman attempted from the back boards in his own end. The puck dribbled to Wellwood, who slapped it through traffic and into the net.

Wellwood scored 41 goals in his last junior season in Windsor so he's got a knack for scoring.

Plekanec made it 4-2 with a power-play goal at 4:51. He had an open side of net to aim at after a terrific pass from Rivet. Plekanec, a Czech, scored 29 goals for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs last season.

Dagenais completed the scoring for Montreal on a goal-mouth scramble with 3.5 seconds left in the third.

The crackdown on obstruction continued. There were 19 power plays _ Toronto went 1-for-11 and Montreal 2-for-8. During the NHL's last regular season, there was an average of nine power plays a game.

Notes: The Leafs didn't use Ed Belfour, Jeff O'Neill, Eric Lindros, Tie Domi, Wade Belak or Aki Berg, and Jason Allison (hip flexor) and Ken Klee (ankle) remained out . . . Montreal sat out Jose Theodore, Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev, Richard Zednik, Michael Ryder, Radek Bonk, Sheldon Souray and Mathieu Dandenault . . . The two teams meet again Saturday night in Montreal . . . Racine would have had a better chance to stop Bulis' shot had he moved out to the top of his crease. He was crouching back near the goal-line on other long shots, too. The 23-year-old native of St-Hyacinthe, Que., was Toronto's fourth pick, 90th overall, in 2000. He'll likely go back to the AHL farm . . . Danis has a chance to be the backup to Theodore this season because intended No. 2 Cristobal Huet is injured and out till December. Danis, 24, of St-Jerome, Que., was the No. 1 goalie for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs in his rookie pro season last winter. He was never drafted and was a free agent when Montreal signed him in March 2004 at the end of his fourth U.S. college season at Brown . . . Price, 18, of Vancouver was Montreal's first choice, fifth overall, in the 2005 entry draft out of the WHL's Tri-City Americans.

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