What more can possibly be said about the way Mats got his 500th career goal? Slapper from the blue line? Check. Top corner snipe? Check. Third goal of the game, shorthanded, in overtime no less? You bet. In one of the biggest games of his career, Sundin performed with style. On a fairly disastrous 2006-07 Leafs squad, Sundin remained the sole bright spot of an aging core.
The game was a high scoring affair. As has so often been the case in Leafs games, defence was nowhere to be seen. Toronto would dominate most of the first, seeing vast stretches of time in the offensive zone on the cycle. Running into some penalty trouble, Calgary suffered the first goal against on a Tucker tally. Picking up a secondary assist on the goal was none other than Sundin. Not merely content with helping someone score, Sundin added his first goal of the night 7 minutes later. Sneaking into open ice near the side boards, Mats fired home a wrister as Calgary was caught sleeping. Number 498.
Defensive breakdowns in the second period saw Calgary take a 3-2 lead halfway through the frame. Alex Steen had the equalizer six minutes later. The game was tied and looked likely to tighten up. Or so many of us thought, before Sundin got his second of the night just over a minute later,Â a beautifully simple yet wicked snapshot over Kiprusoff’s right shoulder, to put the Leafs up 4-3. Number 499. The third period saw some early pressure from Calgary and Mark Giordano managed to tie the game with 13 minutes left. The Leafs and Flames were going to decide the game in overtime.
Mats Sundin was one goal away from one of the greatest milestones a single player can attain. Only 50 seconds into the extra frame, with the Leafs down a man, Sundin was on a rush up the ice. His instincts took over, letting rip a powerful, incredibly accurate slapper from just inside the blue line. A tiny moment of anticipation was quickly abated by jubilation. Number 500. The home crowd erupted into frenzy as Mats’ teammates stormed him on the ice.
Sundin would be named the first, second and third star that night, and became the first Swedish-born player to reach the 500-goal milestone. On a more personal note, it was a game that for me encapsulated great about the Leafs’ star. Despite the team around him, Sundin’s determination and strength never wavered. In a dark post-lockout period, his poise and personality no doubt kept many Leafs fans coming back for more.