Leafs, Blues are old foes

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- Mats Sundin is one of the few Maple Leafs who can remember when Missouri was like a second home.

The Leafs came back to St. Louis last night for the first time since Nov. 9, 2002. Through much of the 1980s and '90s, the Leafs visited four times a season, not including playoffs. The captain played decisive roles in many games, such as Dec. 30, 1995, when he needed just six seconds to beat the Blues in overtime, the fastest extra-period game-winner in Leafs history and three seconds better than the NHL record for a playoff game.

Doug Gilmour, who is on this trip in his new adviser's role, beat Peter Zezel on the draw and found the "freight train" Sundin getting a jump down the right side for a five-hole wrist shot on Grant Fuhr.

"Wow, how long ago was that?" Sundin said when it was mentioned yesterday. "I can barely remember it, but Dougie got me the pass and I put in. It happened quick, which was good for us."

In December 2001, at the multi-monikered Scottrade-Savvis-Kiel Center, Sundin provided another 4-3 overtime winner, courtesy of an Alex Mogilny pass.

During the decades the Leafs played at the old Arena, there were other memorable moments, particularly the rough-and-tumble Norris Division days, which included three seven-game playoff series. Almost all Leafs-Blues games seemed to be decided by one goal late in the game or end in a tie.

DEADLOCK

Almost four decades since the NHL's first expansion, the regular-season series is a virtual deadlock at 88-88-25-1. Each side has won a seven-game playoff series, each has lost in six.

During the 1996 playoffs, Sundin suffered a sprained knee. But, determined to play in Game 6 with the Leafs facing elimination, he ignored medical advice to rest and ordered a custom-made brace from California. It mistakenly was delivered to the Blues room that morning, but they elected not to tell the Leafs until game time. Sundin put it on and played a gutsy game, but the Leafs lost.

And it was a game in St. Louis a few years ago that the Toronto media recall the captain lashing out at reporters, a very rare occurrence. Some mischievous Blues planted a story that Sundin had set a date to be married to then-girlfriend Tina Fagerstrom. It got to the airwaves in Toronto, enraging the intensely private Sundin, who remains single.


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