A Maple Leafs victory on home ice has become nearly as rare as a Stanley Cup parade through the streets of Toronto.
On a night when the most recent Leafs club to win a Stanley Cup, the 1967 squad, was honoured in a 15-minute ceremony before the game, the Leafs responded with just their third home win in 2007.
With a crowd of 19,599 at the Air Canada Centre that included the reclusive Dave Keon and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, John Pohl enjoyed his first two-goal game in the National Hockey League and captain Mats Sundin also scored twice to propel the Leafs to a 4-3 win against the Edmonton Oilers.
The return of Keon and the rest of the festivities aside, what was most important for the Leafs was their reclaiming of sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference for the first time since the first week of January. The Leafs have 66 points, two more than the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders. Those clubs lost last night.
"There is no time for us to pat ourselves on the back and be happy with the position we are in," Sundin said. "We should be enjoying the way we are playing, but at the same time, there some teams that have been in fourth place and all of a sudden they are not in a playoff spot. That's how easy it is going to change."
At 10:55 of the third, Sundin scored his 90th career game-winning goal on a superb play. Using his backside to hold off Oilers defenceman Steve Staios, Sundin brought the puck to the front of the net and beat goalie Dwayne Roloson to the far side. That gave the Leafs a 4-2 lead, one Ryan Smyth closed to 4-3 with just over a minute remaining. With seconds left, Andrew Raycroft, in his 20th consecutive start, made a huge pad save on Ales Hemsky.
Marc Pouliot, on a penalty shot, and Staios also scored for the Oilers. Pouliot was awarded the free shot late in the second period after he was tripped by Carlo Colaiacovo, the third time this season Colaiacovo has caused a penalty shot.
Raycroft has allowed two goals on penalty shots this season, the first Leafs goalie since Gord McRae in 1974-75 to do so.
"It's a little frustrating," Colaiacovo said of the calls against him. "Every time I make a play the (referee's) arm goes up. I make an attempt to play the puck and that is what I am going to continue to do."
Toronto was without Boyd Devereaux, who suffered a right wrist injury against Philadelphia on Thursday and is questionable for the Leafs' next game, on Tuesday at home against Boston. Defenceman Brendan Bell filled in at forward. Darcy Tucker, who has been out with a left foot injury, shucked his crutches yesterday. Tucker will have an MRI tomorrow and plans to go on the Leafs' trip later this week, but is at least two weeks away from returning to the lineup.
The Leafs won for just the third time on home ice in 2007, and have a mere 12 wins at the ACC in 29 games since the season started. The under-rated Pohl was instrumental, going to the net and getting his stick on the ice on his goals.
"Pretty cool," Pohl said. "It was a nice night. I have missed a lot of those this year."
Sundin said the opening ceremony was an inspiration.
"I thought it was great," Sundin said. "Some of those guys you have not seen out here, like Keon, and it was special, the reception they got from the fans. It gives you goosebumps. Forty years is a long way to go for a championship team, but (the applause) was great to see."
B Forwards: The forecheck was solid as it usually is and the Leafs dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 32 of 47 faceoffs in the first two periods.
B Defence: Aside from taking advantage of a rough night for Carlo Colaiacovo, the Oilers could not get much going.
B Goaltending: If Andrew Raycroft is getting tired from the work he is getting, he has a weird way of showing it.