Maurice's tinkering pays off

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

Paul Maurice has a little of John Gibbons in him when it comes to filling in his shootout batting order.

The Maple Leafs coach had changes in mind yesterday morning and his subtle switch last night helped Toronto win just its fourth tiebreaker in 12 tries dating back to last season. Instead of first going to money-in-the-bank lead-off man Mats Sundin, Maurice went with the struggling Jeff O'Neill. His shot was foiled by an Alex Auld pad save, but it had the desired effect.

"I was sure Jeff would shoot it, which gives the next guy the option of (shooting or deking)," Maurice said.

Maurice agreed the choice of O'Neill was an odd one, but also claimed he wanted to rest Mats Sundin from shooting first because he'd just played 23 minutes to cap four games in six nights.

"He was gassed," Maurice said with a laugh.

So even though Auld knew Sundin liked to go high -- and had done so in the last game to beat Montreal's David Aebischer -- Auld had a moment's hesitation before the Leaf captain roofed it. Darcy Tucker back-handed the five-hole winner home on Toronto's third and final chance.

PICKING UP SPEED

"If anything, I'm trying to come in with a bit more speed this year," said Sundin, who also has a penalty shot goal to his credit against Ottawa. "Last year, if anything, I tried to come in (a bit more deliberate). Now I try to do it quicker, as if it's a game situation."

After Kyle Wellwood, Tucker and Alexei Ponikarovsky missed against the Habs on Saturday, Maurice pledged to take a closer look at the club's shootout troubles.

"It's an important piece of the outcome ... we should study them," he said yesterday morning.

"Mats will go, he won't get a night off. But it's a confidence thing. It defends on how the game is going (for other players). Maybe we'll see some guys in the shootout we hadn't thought of before."

For Tucker, the game winner was justice after he thought he'd won the game in the third, only to be robbed by Auld's mitt.

"A good save, but let's be honest, I put it right in his glove," Tucker said. "(On the shootout goal), as long as you make a backhand move quickly, it can work, because the goalie will open up. I used that in a shootout last year against Rick DiPietro (of the New York Islanders) and I think it just stopped at the goal-line."


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