In the buildup to the Sundin’s banner-raising ceremony tomorrow night at the ACC,Â the MLHS bloggers will each be sharing their most memorable Sundin moment. Dan Santos is up first with his reflections on Sundin’s six point night:
When reminiscing about my favourite Mats Sundin moments, the two I instantly remember are his 1-0 overtime winner against Ottawa and his late goal to tie Game 6 against the Hurricanes. However, another game is just as memorable to me because I was lucky enough to be in attendance. I am talking about Mats Sundin’s 6-point night against the Florida Panthers.
April 11, 2006. The Toronto Maple Leafs are desperately fighting for their playoff lives. A late-season surge, led by Jean-Sebastien Aubin of all people, has given the Leafs a glimmer of hope with just a handful of games left.
The reason I bought tickets for this game at the start of the season was the chance to see ex-Leafs Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts back at the Air Canada Centre. They had signed identical 2-year, $4.5 million contracts in Florida in the off-season and the Leafs could not compete with Mike Keenan’s offer in the new salary-cap world. They did not disappoint in that game, but it’s safe to say they were overshadowed.
The Panthers took a 2-0 lead midway through the first on Nieuwendyk’s first of the evening, but Mats single-handedly tied it up with two of his patented clappers over the right shoulder of Jamie McClellan… absolute rockets.
However, Nieuwendyk struck right back after a nice give-and-go with Roberts, to put the Panthers back up 3-2. Sundin later set up Antropov on the power play to tie it up again. But early in the third, Nieuwendyk put Florida back on top with his hat-trick goal. Not to be denied, Mats would strike with his hat-trick goal, tying it up at fours.
The Leafs finally took the lead when, guess who, Mats potted his fourth of the night. I remember yelling at Antropov to get the puck in front, as Mats was all alone in the slot for what had seemed like an eternity. However, Nieuwendyk set up Jay Bouwmeester and the Panthers tied it late in the third. Of course…this game would need overtime.
Normally, I’d be a nervous wreck at such a dramatic game like this, with so much on the line for a desperate Leafs team. And despite taking an early penalty in overtime, for some reason I was confident that the Leafs would pull this one out.
After killing the penalty, the Leafs got an opportunity of their own with a man up. I remember standing up for basically the entire power play, as the Leafs peppered shots on the Florida goal. Sundin even got a chance or two of his own to end it.
Darcy Tucker nearly ended it on his familiar one-timer after a cross-ice pass from Mats. Sundin then picked up the puck in the corner. Nieuwendyk, guarding against a Bryan McCabe one-timer, left a lane open for Mats to send a beautiful pass across to Tomas Kaberle, who beat McLennan five-hole. The place went crazy.
What a game. What a performance. Mats outdueled one of my old favourites in Joe Nieuwendyk, carrying a desperate team on his back like he’d done so many times before. Four goals and two assists, no cheap ones either. It was so special. Thank you Mats.
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