Mats helps snap skid

Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin notched the 1,200th point of his career on a goal in the...

Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin notched the 1,200th point of his career on a goal in the first period in a win over the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. (Toronto Sun/Dave Thomas)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Mats Sundin is a single man off the ice, but a model father to a group of impressionable young Maple Leafs.

With a youth movement injected into the lineup by a rash of injuries and a three-game losing streak threatening to get ugly last night, the captain opened the scoring and played a huge role in Jeff O'Neill's late 4-3 winner over the Minnesota Wild. Sundin's goal was his 1,200th NHL point.

John Pohl, Alex Steen, Alex Suglobov, Matt Stajan and a host of other 20-somethings were given a friendly shove by Sundin after the morning skate when he was asked about the uneven efforts by many of the kids and the expanded role they'll have to take in the coming weeks.

"For many it will be an adjustment time for sure," Sundin said. "Many have only played 10 or 12 minutes a night, some have played a lot more. But guys such as Stajan and Steen have picked up their games and we'll need more of that."

Steen, promoted to the first line with Sundin and O'Neill, scored just his third goal of the year last night, while Pohl assisted on Sundin's power-play goal and added another on a penalty shot.

"Mats is very good with the kids, very encouraging," coach Paul Maurice said. "He doesn't have any of that star status in the room, though there are players like him who don't spend a lot of time with kids. He talks to all of them like they're regulars and makes them feel part of the team."

Sundin had a two-goal game in a losing cause against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, in which he continued an unusual march to the penalty box. But that hasn't yet upset Maurice to any great extent.

"He has not only played well, but with great intensity," the coach said. "He's playing more minutes, killing penalties and he's doing more things, banging and hitting. His legs have been back for the last week and a half."

Maurice was also enthused about the Minnesota-born Pohl, who delighted his family watching in the North Star State last night. His penalty shot goal on Manny Fernandez made himself and Sundin the first two Leafs to get two such chances in one season. They're a combined 3-for-4.

Pohl had missed against the Carolina Hurricanes' Cam Ward 11 days ago, but went with a multi-deke backhand after being tripped by Brent Burns on a breakaway.

"This is exactly the time (he turned it on) last year, after he was called up," Maurice said. "He has got a lot of confidence. He seems to get faster and I don't know how he does it."

O'Neill missed an earlier breakaway then buried his 12th of the year with 2:18 to play. Sundin out-drew Mikko Koivu to point man Bryan McCabe, who atoned for his sub-part game with a drive Fernandez let bounce to O'Neill.

Steen, with his Wild scout father Thomas watching from the team box, went hard to the net following a tricky Ian White shot early in the third.

"Hopefully, the weird one will get him scoring regularly again," O'Neill noted.

"You could feel on the bench that we were hungry for the fourth one," Steen said. "You can't be too patient (in his slump), because you have to turn it around at some point."


Videos

Photos