Hats off to Mats

Leafs captain Mats Sundin celebrates his goal with Jason Blake, breaking the club record for points...

Leafs captain Mats Sundin celebrates his goal with Jason Blake, breaking the club record for points previously held by Darryl Sittler. (Sun Media/Dave Thomas)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:08 AM ET

Mats Sundin never has done things on the cheap for the Maple Leafs and so it was with his historic 917th Toronto point last night.

He refused a phantom second-period assist that would've moved him past Darryl Sittler, biding his time for his 390th goal in an 8-1 rout of the New York Islanders, breaking two major club offensive marks on the same play.

During one of many standing ovations accorded him last night by 19,400 at the Air Canada Centre, the Swede heard the crowd chant his name as they used to for beloved Canadian-born captains Sittler, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark.

"The way things are today, not many players get the chance to play so long for one organization," Sundin said after being named first, second and third star. "I have to thank all the players I played with who gave me (the points) and the fans who have stayed with this team, even though they've had no Stanley Cup since 1967."

Sittler was not in attendance last night in the wake of a planned trip to Florida.

When they blared Ode To Joy for Sundin during a video tribute, the celebration resonated to the whole team. With big trouble in the air after a 7-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Leafs needed to re-take the initiative on an early home-stand. Their overall record is 2-2-1, but just as noteworthy as Sundin's goal were Matt Stajan's four-point evening, goals by young defencemen Ian White and Andy Wozniewski and a goal and assist from newcomer Simon Gamache.

"I don't want any attention," Stajan insisted, nodding in Sundin's direction. "You can't say enough for what Mats has done for the fans in this city the past 12 years."

The crowd was caught off guard by the announcement that Sundin had passed Sittler on a second-period goal by Tomas Kaberle. But before replays showed he hadn't touched the puck in the Kaberle/Jason Blake exchange, there were scoreboard tributes of Sundin's years in Toronto.

"Then I went to the penalty box and they said: 'I think they're going to take your assist away,' " Sundin said chuckling. "I said: 'Fine, because I didn't get it anyway.' "

Boos rained down when the announcement was made in the third period -- shades of Gilmour's 1,000th NHL point being waved off at the Gardens a decade earlier -- but at 9:54, Sundin came down the left side and banked a shot off New York defenceman Brendan Witt's skate past Wade Dubielewicz.

The Leafs had 42 shots after allowing 39 on Vesa Toskala 48 hours earlier.

Coach Paul Maurice's juggled lines paid dividends, replacing Nik Antropov with Steen on the first line with Sundin and Blake, building a new unit with Nik Antropov centring John Pohl and Boyd Devereaux, with Stajan placed between Darcy Tucker and Simon Gamache. Wade Belak had his first start alongside Chad Kilger and Kris Newbury.

An ankle injury to Alexei Ponikarovsky simplified Maurice's decision, but Bates Battaglia paid the price for Tuesday's uninspired effort by the forwards and was dropped for Belak. The coach also switched to Andrew Raycroft, but insisted he wouldn't make knee-jerk moves in net based on team stinkers such as the Carolina game.

"Instead of needing a 7-1 game to wake us up, we have to go into games preventing those kinds of scores," Raycroft said. "It was good to have a low-pressure night."

Toronto caught a break with the Isles playing the night before and deciding to rest Rick DiPietro for Dubielewicz.

It was the obscure Dubielewicz, who became a folk hero in Nassau County in four season-ending wins -- one over the Leafs and another against New Jersey in Game 82 that fried Toronto's playoff hopes.


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