McCabe reverts to past form with stellar play

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

There were a pair of skates and soggy equipment in Bryan McCabe's stall last night, but Mats Sundin thought there should have been a big bag of oats.

"Bryan McCabe was a horse out there," the very impressed Maple Leafs captain said of his assistant's 30 minute, 14 second workout at the Air Canada Centre.

McCabe recorded his first multi-point game of the year with assists on power-play goals by Darcy Tucker and Sundin, but it was his positioning that was key in the huge 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators.

"That is the kind of game we remember Bryan playing when I coached against him," Toronto bench boss Paul Maurice said.

Maurice helped McCabe turn things around last night by partnering him much of the night with Tomas Kaberle. The one- time inseparable Glimmer Twins of the Leafs had only been paired on power plays and as recently as Thursday's 5-2 loss in Boston, McCabe was struggling along with rookie Andy Wozniewski as his mate.

"We just decided to put it all on our leadership," Maurice said. "We told them to drink as much water as they can and kept sending them out there."

McCabe's up and down season has mirrored the whole team. As soon as the exhibition games started, McCabe started to hear it from Cup-starved fans about his $7-million US salary this year, measured against his declining production since 2005-06.

"Playing in Toronto, it's impossible not to be challenged by the fans," Sundin said. 'But the way he has played the past few games shows why he is one of the best in the league."

To his credit, McCabe didn't run for cover after two of his most grievous errors, an own goal against Buffalo and a giveaway versus Montreal, led to overtime losses.

"That's hockey," he said last night. "A lot can happen out there. It's always nice to get a boost in a game like that and having Tommy back with me was an added bonus."

Kaberle said their familiarity after six years together -- and 547 combined points -- makes it easy to get comfortable when put together after long periods apart.

"I know where he's going to be," Kaberle said. "Bryan did it all for us tonight (six hits and three blocked shots). We shut out the best team in the league."


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