A big night for big goals

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

For Jeff O'Neill, it was the natural thing to do after scoring his first goal as a Maple Leaf.

Immediately after blasting the puck past Philadelphia Flyers goalie Robert Esche for the go-ahead goal last night at the Air Canada Centre, O'Neill pointed skyward and looked up, an acknowledgement of his brother Don, who passed away in July in an automobile accident.

"I've been waiting to do that for a long time," said O'Neill, who missed the previous two games with a bruised shoulder. "The last three months have seemed like three years. I knew that when I got the first one, it was for him. It's pretty emotional, and even tough to talk about right now.

"It's something that is real tough to deal with."

O'Neill's marker at 7:34 of the third period represented more for the Leafs. It was the first winner of the season for the beleaguered club, propelling it to a 4-2 triumph over the Flyers following a skid in which they had blown third-period leads in each of their three losses.

And though Ed Belfour has saved his teammates' bacon in the past, Mikael Tellqvist demonstrated he can do the same. In his first appearance of the season, Tellqvist put in a brilliant 31-save performance and was named first star.

"The big difference was Tellqvist," coach Pat Quinn said.

"He made a couple of really big stops for us."

Many of those were in the second period, when Tellqvist stopped 12 shots. During one power play, he stopped Brian Savage on the doorstep and then thwarted rookie Jeff Carter on a quick shot from the slot.

Tellqvist was somewhat surprised to get the call after the morning skate, figuring he would make his season debut Friday night in Atlanta against the Thrashers.

The 26-year-old Swede brushed off a question about whether the Leafs were starting to get desperate because they had not yet won.

"No, that was mostly you guys," Tellqvist said. "(But) I was pumped up that the guys scored for me in the last period. We came out strong and got the win. It was huge."

Less than six minutes after O'Neill scored on a one-timer from Bryan McCabe with Flyers rookie Mike Richards in the penalty box, former Flyer Eric Lindros ripped a shot over the left shoulder of Esche.

Toronto rookie Kyle Wellwood, whose nifty plays are starting to become commonplace, also supplied a highlight. Wellwood, who starred for Belleville and Windsor in junior before doing the same for St. John's, scored his first NHL goal in the second period after a great feed from Matt Stajan

The 22-year-old Wellwood was given a rousing ovation by the crowd of 19,391 when his goal was announced.

"It felt awesome," Wellwood said. "Right before it happened I could see it coming. I just had to chip it in."

Darcy Tucker also scored for the Leafs. With O'Neill in, Mariusz Czerkawski was a healthy scratch. Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne scored for Philadelphia.

One Leaf who probably won't want to remember the night is defenceman Alexander Khavanov, who had a hand in the Philly goals.

He missed a check on Knuble and later kept the puck in play when Tellqvist tried to smother it, leading to Gagne's goal.


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