Tucker ups the ante

Darcy Tucker celebrates OT winning goal (his second of the game) after Toronto defeated Boston...

Darcy Tucker celebrates OT winning goal (his second of the game) after Toronto defeated Boston Bruins 4-3. (Alex Urosevic/Sun)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:29 AM ET

When Cliff Fletcher steps off the plane in Naples, Fla., today, there might be a welcoming party of 29 other NHL general managers standing on the sun-drenched tarmac to greet him.

Okay, maybe that is just a bit far-fetched.

But there is no doubt the Maple Leafs interim general manager will be a popular figure at the GMs' meetings in the Sunshine state over the next few days, where the groundwork could be laid for a number of deals heading into the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

After taking in the Leafs' valiant come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win over the Boston Bruins last night at the Air Canada Centre, Fletcher arrives in Florida with the mandate of trying to improve the team's future, no easy task given the number of no-trade contracts shackling his efforts.

HOT STREAK

One of those belongs to Darcy Tucker, who scored the winner with 1:21 remaining in overtime to cap off a three-point evening. Tucker has six goals in his past five games, which could ignite some trade talk from other teams.

Tucker, for the record, does not want to leave.

Captain Mats Sundin and defenceman Tomas Kaberle continue to draw the most interest from around the league despite the continued insistence by both players that they do not want to exit Toronto.

That has not stopped the rumour mill from chugging along, picking up momentum with every passing day that leads to the deadline.

In Friday's edition of the New York Post, it was suggested that Kaberle was poised to waive his no trade in order to go to the Rangers. The Leafs defenceman chuckled when he saw the report on the Internet.

Given that pending unrestricted free agent defenceman Brian Campbell could command $6-million US or mor per season this summer, the Leafs would be reluctant to move Kaberle anyway, feeling he is a bargain for a puck-moving defenceman at an average annual salary of $4.25 million.

Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported that, according to two NHL general managers, Sundin would agree to waive his no trade if a potential deal would land him with an ideal team which, the newspaper indicated, likely would be the Detroit Red Wings.

Yet Sundin's close friends and handlers continue to insist that the big Swede is steadfast in his desire to remain a Leaf.

"I can't control the (scuttlebutt). Maybe all these rumours are my own fault because I only signed a one-year deal (last summer)," Sundin said when informed of the report out of Boston. "Maybe there wouldn't be as much talk about this stuff had I signed for longer.

"I haven't given up on this team. We haven't come from behind much this season so maybe this win will give us some confidence. We are going to play a lot of teams around us in the standings."

Fletcher will not approach Sundin about a deal unless he gets an overwhelming offer. Don't be surprised if there are a few of those.

The Leafs came out of the gates looking as if they would be blown out of their own rink. The Bruins outshot the hosts 14-1 and had a 1-0 lead on a Glen Murray goal through the first nine minutes of play.

After Dominic Moore evened the score midway through the period, Dennis Wideman put Boston up 2-1 in the second. Enter Tucker, who tied the game at 14:18 of the third, then set up Nik Antropov for the go-ahead goal less than two minutes later.

After Zdeno Chara knotted the score at 3-3 with 50 seconds remaining, Tucker redirected Alex Steen's feed for the winner at 3:39 of overtime.

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REPLAY

STAR OF THE GAME

Darcy Tucker's centring feed to Nik Antropov for the tying goal midway through the third fooled everyone in the building, including Tim Thomas. Tucker, who went on to score the overtime winner, registered a three-point night and has six goals in the past five games.

RAINING RUBBER

Beleaguered Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala was pelted with 14 shots in the game's first nine minutes last night.

BY THE NUMBERS

Tucker's power-play goal in the third marked just the second time this season the Leafs had scored in a 5-on-3 situation. In the second period, the Leafs enjoyed a similar two-man advantage but could not score.

QUOTE/UNQUOTE

"Olympics? That would be great. Heck, I was just honoured to get a sniff for the all-star game."

-- Bruins F Marc Savard, who is on his way to a third consecutive 90-plus point season.


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