Mats Sundin scores with 29.2 seconds left to give Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over Capitals

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TORONTO (AP)—The Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to make a strong impression for new interim general manager Cliff Fletcher.

Mats Sundin scored with 29.2 seconds left to give Toronto a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, a day after Fletcher replaced the fired John Ferguson.

“It was good to get a win in his first game,” said goalie Vesa Toskala, who made 30 saves. “It was a huge two points for us.”

Chad Kilger and Alex Steen also scored for Toronto, which won for the fourth time in five games and moved into a tie with idle Florida for 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 48 points.

“With everything that’s happened, we all feel pressure to win,” Sundin said. “Everybody feels it’s time to pull up the socks.”

Sundin’s 21st goal of the season tied him with Maurice Richard for 24th on the career list with 544.

“We’ve got bigger and more important things to think about right now,” Sundin said. “But Rocket Richard was a player we all know about, and to score as many as him and be mentioned with him is a great honor.”

The 37-year-old Swede swept a rebound under a sprawling Olaf Kolzig to avoid overtime. It was Sundin’s 93rd game-winning goal, and he trails only Jaromir Jagr (111) and Brendan Shanahan (108).

“There was a lot of talk surrounding the team the last six weeks and we’ve tried to keep our focus,” Kilger said. “We know we have a good team. We just have to prove it.”

The Maple Leafs’ winning surge has followed an 0-5 road trip to Pennsylvania and California.

“We really kept building on some of the good things we’ve been doing,” Sundin said. “We’ve been playing better defensively and giving ourselves a chance to win.

Alexander Ovechkin got his league-best 39th goal, Alexander Semin also scored, and Kolzig made 21 saves for Washington. The Capitals had won four straight and eight of 10.

The Leafs lost left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky when he hurt his right shoulder against the end boards on a hit from behind by Steve Eminger in the 12th minute.

Kilger opened the scoring at 7:12 when he deflected in Anton Stralman’s pass from the blue line for his ninth goal of the season.

Ovechkin tied it 2:27 into the second period when he pounced on a loose puck in the middle of Toronto’s zone and fired a wrist shot into a top corner of the net so quickly that Toskala looked frozen.

Steen put Toronto up 2-1 with 1:16 left in the second. Sundin darted out from behind the net and sent a cross-crease pass to an onrushing Nik Antropov, who missed the puck and went flying. Steen was alone to Kolzig’s right, and the puck landed on his stick for an easy relay into the open side of the net for his 10th goal.

Semin tied it 2 with 6:53 left in the third. The Russian went around Pavel Kubina, deked Toskala one way, pulled the puck the other way, and stuffed it into the open net for his 12th goal.

“We didn’t give up, but we didn’t play our best hockey,” Washington defenseman Tom Poti said. “We didn’t play that well in the second period, and it showed.”

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, 16-8-4 since replacing the fired Glen Hanlon on Nov. 22, was encouraged to see his team come back from the two deficits.

“In spurts, they came on, and they played very good,” Boudreau said of the Leafs. “From the bench, we recognized their spurts and their pushes. We just didn’t contain them.”

The teams meet again Thursday night in Washington.


Toronto was 0-for-3 on the power play, and Washington was 0-for-4. … Maple Leafs D Bryan McCabe missed his 17th game since breaking his left hand on Dec. 15. The Leafs have earned 14 of a possible 34 points in his absence. … Sundin entered the game ranked second in the NHL to only Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour in faceoffs taken and faceoff wins. In 1,177 drops of the puck in 49 games, Sundin had won 645 (54.8 percent). … Fletcher says he’ll examine an expanded role for former Leafs captain Doug Gilmour, who is involved in player development with the team. … Ovechkin, who signed a 13-year, $124-million contract extension on Jan. 10, has scored a goal in six straight games.

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Three Stars

  Three Stars
M. Sundin
Mats Sundin
Maple Leafs - C
Goals: 1
Assists: 1
A. Ovechkin
Alexander Ovechkin
Capitals - LW
Goals: 1
Assists: 0
V. Toskala
Vesa Toskala
Maple Leafs - G
Saves: 30
Save Pct.: .938


Goalie Team Shot Save
Olaf Kolzig Tor 24 21


Wednesday, Jan 23