Steen making noise

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

BOSTON -- Alex Steen is no longer Mats Sundin's silent partner.

With a five-point burst, on top of some improved defensive play, the often-criticized left winger on the Maple Leafs' first line is back with a bang to start the second half.

Steen's hat trick in last night's 10-2 laugher over the Bruins nearly matched his four-goal season total, a disappointment after his rookie year yielded 45 points.

"Things are a little bit different this year," said Steen, who, among other things, lost his power-play time to Darcy Tucker. "Now I'm starting to get my confidence back. I feel I've been playing well since the beginning of the (new) year. But there are things you want to do better. Tonight was a great feeling."

Coach Paul Maurice demanded a better all-around game from the Swedish-Canadian, who was put to work many nights on coverage duty.

'WORKED HARD'

"I have no doubt about his talent, but the other parts of his game were in question earlier in the year," Maurice said. "He's worked hard to improve that. If you're going to play with Mats, you'd better be good at both ends of the rink, because (Sundin) is going to draw the other team's No. 1 defence and forwards. That means a lot of nights of frustration."

Like the other young forwards, Steen gained rapid promotion of late because of injuries, including a lingering foot problem that kept Tucker in Toronto last night.

"He got a chance, so good for him," Maurice said. "But this (five points) doesn't mean a three-week grace period for him. That's good for tonight."

Steen brought the Leafs bench to its feet with the go-ahead goal, following through on a blocked shot for a desperate, lunging back-hand swipe that beat Tim Thomas.

"We started getting pucks to the net and bodies there, for sure," Steen said. "We could have had a couple of more rebounds go in, too. We should be that way from the start of the game, too."

Winger Alex Suglobov was sidelined by a bad back. Brendan Bell dressed as a seventh defenceman and wound up in a third-period fight.

Wade Belak was given a 10-minute misconduct in the third when the officials claimed he broke his stick in anger over a holding call. Belak said it busted during the play.

"I said: 'Buddy, we're up 10-2. Why would I pout over that call?" Belak said.


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