It did the trick

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:14 AM ET

DALLAS -- Niklas Hagman admits being "embarrassed."

With the Maple Leafs winless in their first five games of the 2009-10 season, the veteran forward was shocked to learn that coach Ron Wilson had made him a healthy scratch for an Oct. 13 game against Colorado.

It was humiliating. It was a blow to his pride. And it worked.

Determined it would never happen again, Hagman worked on his game, and his efforts finally paid off with a hat trick against Anaheim on Monday night.

In Toronto's first victory of the season, a 6-3 drubbing of the Ducks at the Honda Center, Hagman scored three power-play goals, helping the Leafs wipe out the memories of their ugly 0-7-1 start. His performance was just one of several impressive offensive displays that also included a career-high five-point night by defenceman Tomas Kaberle and a four-point evening by Lee Stempniak.

RETURN TO DALLAS

Hagman returns to the American Airlines Center tonight in Dallas for the first time since leaving the Stars in the summer of 2008. Looking back, Hagman said being banished to the press box has been the source of great motivation ever since.

"The last time I was a healthy scratch was when I was in Florida, so that's something like four, five years ago," Hagman said. "It's been a long time, so obviously I was embarrassed about it. Obviously a healthy scratch means you can't even make one of the four lines that play. You definitely want to show that you should be playing."

This isn't the first time Wilson has motivated a player by making him a healthy scratch. Ian White played some of the best hockey of his career last season after sitting out 11 consecutive games.

Hagman is looking forward to playing against his former team tonight -- specifically, Stars goalie Marty Turco.

"I'd love to get a couple of goals on Turco," Hagman said. "He's an awesome guy and a great goalie. For sure it will give me a little extra boost."

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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