Trusting Tellqvist

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Mikael Tellqvist is not used to upstaging Ed Belfour at the Air Canada Centre.

The vast majority of his 15 games as a Maple Leaf have come by design in road games, including his debut when he stopped nine of 10 shots in Montreal for his first National Hockey League win.

But the schedule broke the right way for him this week, with Belfour given the night off after a draining shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators. Tellqvist stood up to the brawny Philadelphia Flyers and their crease crashing tactics, stopping 31 shots in a 4-2 win, Toronto's first of the year.

Coach Pat Quinn has hinted at using Tellqvist again this weekend, perhaps tomorrow in Atlanta to save No. 1 Belfour for a divisional game against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre the next night.

Finding a reliable backup was a question mark for Toronto in 2003-04 when Trevor Kidd could not deliver. By the end of that season, Tellqvist's rookie year, he had superior numbers to Kidd and spent last year keeping sharp in St. John's, fending off a challenge from free agent Jean-Sebastien Aubin.

The 26-year-old Tellqvist was first star against the Flyers, timing his performance perfectly for a small group of Swedish journalists who had come to cover Peter Forsberg's first visit as a Philadelphia Flyer.

Defenceman Alexander Khavanov admitted he didn't give his goalie much help. Mike Knuble eluded him on the first Flyers goal and he was one of the Leafs flailing away in a vain at a clearing attempt in the second period that Simon Gagne eventually buried.

"You've got to be smarter and I wasn't happy with myself," Khavanov said. "They (Flyers) come very hard and they take away the boards well. Being the last one there, you don't have many options. You give the puck away and there's no one there to help you.

"You don't want to put their team in a position to tie or win the game, but it's a long season and we'll get better as it goes along."


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