Eddie finally makes his mark

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

By now, Ed Belfour had probably stopped looking at Terry Sawchuk's name beside his in the career wins column and cast a worried backward glance to see how fast Martin Brodeur and Curtis Joseph were gaining.

But after a six-game struggle and a couple of goal crease punch-ups the past two games, Belfour at last nailed down No. 448 last night and broke the tie with Sawchuk for second overall in the National Hockey League.

His 9-6 decision over the New York Islanders last night sealed the deal, though his career 2.43 goals-against average has taken a beating in this strange season.

"You never thought it would happen this way, because games used to be so tight and low scoring," Belfour said.

"This is the new NHL, penalty after penalty. It has taken forever to do it, but the guys played unbelievable tonight and got me nine goals. I'm real thankful and honoured."

Belfour has read up on Sawchuk's turbulent life. The ex-Leaf goalie had a strained family relationship and rarely paused to enjoy his NHL stardom. As well, he played in an era when goalies didn't wear masks and were prime candidates for serious injury.

Sawchuk died in 1970 after play-fighting with teammate.

"I just have a lot of respect for his family and what they went through," Belfour said. "His life was tragically ended. It just means a lot to me to be up there with him and all the other greats who have played that long."

Belfour was asked if he would hang in long enough to take a run at Patrick Roy's record of 551. That's about three more years' worth of wins and a 43-year-old starter would be quite a radical concept by then.

"That's definitely a long ways away," Belfour said of Roy's mark. "One game at a time, one year at a time. Hopefully, I can stay healthy and keep playing."

The Leafs have an option for another year on his services, but with Mikael Tellqvist, Justin Pogge and Tuukka Rask all developing, they don't need much more out of Belfour. A few more wild games such as last night and Belfour might be tempted to retire voluntarily.

"All the 5-on-3s, I couldn't believe it," Belfour said.

"The rushes can give you a heart attack."


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