TORONTO - Mats Sundin saved his best for last.
The Air Canada Centre crowd was on its feet Saturday as he skated in and scored the shootout winner in his return to the city where he spent 13 memorable years. It gave the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on an entertaining evening.
Sami Salo and Alex Burrows scored in regulation for the Canucks (30-21-8).
Jason Blake and Matt Stajan replied for Toronto (21-26-12).
Sundin's shootout winner on Vesa Toskala came with his patented backhand move and helped earn him the first star. He received a hearty ovation when he came back out and took a bow to the crowd.
While some fans chose to boo Sundin in his first game at the arena as a visiting player, he was mostly well-received. The longtime Leafs captain was nearly moved to tears in the first period when he received a long standing ovation after a video tribute was played on the scoreboard.
The special treatment didn't carry on to the ice. Dominic Moore shoved Sundin a few times in the first period and set off a scrum in front of the Canucks bench.
The Maple Leafs emerged from that melee with a power play and Blake soon made it 1-0. He tipped Pavel Kubina's point shot by Roberto Luongo at 12:06 and pumped his fists in celebration of a team-leading 22nd goal of the season.
At the other end, Vesa Toskala was back in net for the Leafs and looked solid during his first start in a week. He stopped a long shot from Sundin in the first period and got his glove on a good power-play chance by Steve Bernier early in the second.
The Toronto goalie can't be faulted for the goal that tied the game at 9:49 of the second period. Salo's point shot deflected off Niklas Hagman's shin pad and behind Toskala on a power play.
Stajan got that back with a rare short-handed goal. He carried the puck into Vancouver's zone and beat Luongo through the legs with a low shot at 16:11. That gave him a career-best 41 points on the season.
One of the game's highlights came before the end of the second period and it didn't involve Sundin or a goal. Moore broke his stick while blocking a shot at the Leafs blue-line and managed to come in on a breakaway using his feet to kick the puck forward. He even found Blake with a pass but Luongo stopped the shot.
The Canucks were trailing 2-1 as they went to the dressing room after 40 minutes and likely got an earful from Alain Vigneault.
They started the third period with more urgency, but weren't able to generate any top-rate scoring chances. The Canucks even squandered a four-minute power play after Moore was sent off for cutting Willie Mitchell with a high stick.
It was just starting to look bleak when Burrows tied it 2-2 at 16:03. Daniel Sedin's long shot was heading well wide of the goal until Burrows redirected the puck from the slot.
The game was headed for overtime, giving Sundin a little extra time in front of the Toronto fans.
Notes: Canucks forward Kyle Wellwood played 189 games for the Leafs over the last four seasons ... Nikolai Kulemin was a healthy scratch for Toronto ... Leafs defenceman Pavel Kubina picked up his 300th career point ... Sundin is Toronto's franchise leader with 420 goals and 987 points ... Announced attendance was 19,504.