Capping the historic night at Air Canada Centre, public address announcer Andy Frost drew roars of approval from the more than 19,000 fans when he revealed the selection of the three stars of the game as Sundin, Sundin and Sundin.
Sundin scored his 390th goal for his 917th point to break ties with Darryl Sittler for club records in both categories, and the Maple Leafs beat the New York Islanders 8-1 on Thursday night.
“The fans sticking with this team, which hasn’t won a championship since ’67, is a big carrot for us coming back every year to try and achieve that,” Sundin said. “Tonight they were outstanding again and helped us play this game and helped us bounce back after a very disappointing game the other night.
“My respect has grown every year as a player for this city, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the fans. Hopefully, it’s grown the same for me as a player.”
The Leafs were looking to bounce back from a 7-1 home loss to Carolina on Tuesday.
“Every team is going to lose at some part of the season—even the team winning the Stanley Cup,” Sundin said. “It’s how you respond after a loss like that, and I thought we responded well.
Islanders coach Ted Nolan had nothing but praise for Sundin.
“Mats is an all-star player and what he means to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the city, the type of gentleman that he is, it’s fitting for him to get that many goals and that many points,” Nolan said. “He’s a heck of a player.”
Sundin’s wasn’t a pretty goal. In fact, it was an attempted pass. The puck caromed off the skate blade of Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt and past Wade Dubielewicz at 9:54 of the third period. When Sundin went to the bench, his teammates stood and banged their sticks against the boards while the announced crowd of 19,319 stood and cheered the Leafs’ Swedish captain.
They’d done the same in the second period when Sundin was credited with an assist but were informed 5 minutes into the third period that it had been mistakenly awarded.
Stajan and Darcy Tucker each had three assists.
“I’m extremely happy for him,” Tucker said of Sundin. “He’s the face of the franchise and has been for a number of years.
Coach Paul Maurice shook up his lines after the lopsided loss to the Hurricanes. He had Sundin between Jason Blake and Steen, Stajan centering Darcy Tucker and Gamache, Antropov with John Pohl and Boyd Devereaux, and Kris Newbury with Chad Kilger and Wade Belak.
“It was embarrassing,” said Dubielewicz, who was in the net for the Islanders to give Rick DiPietro a rest. “The effort just wasn’t there—from me on out.”
: Toronto improved to 2-2-1 and the Islanders slipped to 3-2-0 … Over the last 10 seasons, Sundin ranks fourth among all NHL players in goals (334) and points (787) … Belak, taking the place of Bates Battaglia, and Gamache, up from the AHL Marlies in place of Alexei Ponikarovsky (left knee), got into their first game this season.