Swedes give coach return to remember

TERRY KOSHAN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A milestone night for Mats Sundin made Paul Maurice's return to the RBC Center doubly memorable.

But the Maple Leafs needed some help from another Swede who has been awfully quiet this season to record a 4-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup-champion Carolina Hurricanes.

The Leafs got a rare goal by Alexander Steen with six minutes remaining in the third period to escape with their second win after losing seven in a row.

But Sundin was the biggest factor. A day after some speculation arose regarding his hockey future, the 35-year-old had perhaps his strongest game since returning from an elbow injury on Nov. 25.

SECOND TO SITTLER

Sundin had two goals and an assist to give him 859 points as a Leaf, one more than Dave Keon and putting him behind only Darryl Sittler's 916 points. And Sundin now has 508 National Hockey League goals, moving him past Canadiens' Jean Beliveau and giving him possession of 33rd on the career list.

"When the season is over, I will reflect on that and appreciate it more," said Sundin, who played 22 minutes, 43 seconds, the most for him since getting back into the lineup. "This time of year, we are in a battle and short-term goals are more important."

Yes, but Mats, these are legends you are passing.

"I know, I know," Sundin said with a smile. "I recognize the tradition of the Toronto Maple Leafs and it has grown on me. I don't think I appreciated it when I became a Leaf. I am humbled by the many years I have had a chance to play for the Leafs and these names are icons and it is a huge honour."

Sundin's large night nearly became moot. The Leafs carried a 3-1 lead into the third, but as they did so many times during their recent slide, could not hold it. Justin Williams scored on a power play at 6:03 and, five minutes later, Mike Commodore scored.

During their skid, the Leafs would have wilted at that point. But they kept going at 'Canes goalie Cam Ward and Steen blasted a shot home from the slot.

That made a winner of Maurice, who was back in the RBC Center for the first time since he was fired by Carolina three years ago to the day.

"After it went 3-2, Sundin went out and spent a good 45 seconds in their end," Maurice said. "I thought it made the bench feel really good. It's funny, you can't put your finger on it when you feel uncomfortable in the third and you're losing the leads like we did. I can't explain why, but it was not like that (last night). It was a good sense on the bench."

Bryan McCabe also scored for the Leafs, whose two second-period goals both came on 5-on-3 power plays.

As for winning in his old house, Maurice had mixed feelings.

"It is nice to win in here, but I am not enjoying beating Jim Rutherford's team," Maurice said. "It's great we won, and there's no joy in beating your friends, but it is far better than losing to them."

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REPORT CARD

B Forwards: Sundin turned in a strong effort as did Darcy Tucker. A mostly sound game from the group.

C+ Defence: There could've been more help for Raycroft, who saw enough shots from inside the perimeter.

B- Goaltending: Raycroft played well, but still has to find a way to make those big stops in the third period.


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