Maple Leafs 5, Lightning 3
TORONTO (AP)—Mats Sundin exceeded his own expectations after missing a month.
Sundin had a goal and an assist in his first game since sustaining a serious eye injury, and the Maple Leafs held on for a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
“I was a little worried before the game about how it was going to go, but it went better than I thought,” Sundin said.
Sundin fractured his left orbital bone when he was struck in the face by a puck in the season opener against Ottawa on Oct. 5. He returned to practice Wednesday, and wore a visor against Tampa Bay.
“It feels all right. You have to constantly wipe off the water, but it’s something you have to get used to,” Sundin said. “I’m going to have to wear it for the next three weeks, and hopefully I can keep it on for the remainder of the year.”
The Toronto captain helped Jeff O’Neill end an eight-game goal drought by assisting on the first goal. Sundin then gave Toronto a 3-1 lead in the second period.
“He was huge right from the start,” rookie Alexander Steen said.
Dan Boyle and Vincent Lecavalier scored third-period goals for the Lightning, who lost their third straight. Tampa Bay almost rallied to tie it with two goals in the third, but received three penalties in the final minutes.
“We had them on the run. We absolutely just blew ourselves up,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said
Toronto goalie Ed Belfour made 33 saves.
Sundin received a loud ovation in the pregame introductions.
O’Neill scored midway through the first after converting Sundin’s pass from behind the net.
Toronto took a 2-0 lead with 28 seconds left in the period after Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis received a double minor for high-sticking and drawing blood from Tucker, who shrugged off the cut and scored his sixth goal.
Evgeny Artyukhin cut it to 2-1 with his first goal of his NHL career by converting a pass from behind the net. Artyukhin got the puck from one of the officials.
But Toronto took scored twice in the period. Sundin, sliding on one knee, scored from the side of the net after receiving a pass from O’Neill, and Steen had an unassisted goal after a Tampa Bay turnover.
Boyle cut it 4-2 with a power-play goal just 52 seconds into the third, and Lecavalier tipped Dave Andreychuk pass on the power play past Belfour at 9:01.
Kilger scored into an empty net with three seconds left.
Cam Neely, who will be inducted into Hall of Fame on Monday, was honored before the game. Neely spent 10 years in Boston, scoring 50 or more goals three times. … Sundin sat out 12 straight games since being struck in the eye seven minutes into the season opener. He missed only 23 games due to injury in his first 10 years with Toronto.