Leafs score late to beat Flyers 2-1, even series at one apiece
Posted: Tuesday May 04, 1999 01:22 PM
Criticized in some circles after Philadelphia's 3-0 win in Game 1 on Thursday for ineffective play, Sundin swept a backhand shot off a rebound over the right shoulder of Flyer goalie John Vanbiesbrouck with 52.4 seconds remaining, giving the Leafs a 2-1 victory and evening the best-of-7, first-round series at one win apiece.
Toronto scored both of its goals in the game's final two minutes after being blanked by Vanbiesbrouck for 118 minutes in the series.
"I don't read the papers or anything now," Sundin said of expectations of him. "I just shut myself down and worry about my game.
"Obviously, I know it's important for us and myself to have a good playoffs. I've never made it through the first round and the Stanley Cup is the biggest thing you can play for as a hockey player. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and I don't pay a lot of attention to what's going on around me. I just try to get my job done."
Games 3 and 4 are in Philadelphia on Monday and Wednesday, and Game 5 will be back at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night.
"Mats has got a lot of pressure on him," said linemate Steve Thomas, whose tying goal with 1:59 remaining ended Vanbiesbrouck's shutout string. "I don't know whether he feels it but it's induced by the media and it's tough for anybody.
"He knows he's our big player and he should produce. When you open the paper it's his name in there. He's looked to be the one who should carry our team to the promised land. But it's not one guy. It's 20 guys."
For most of Game 2, it appeared as if Toronto could use 50 guys and still not score.
Keith Jones scored in the first period, and the Flyers' defense-first strategy had the Leafs frustrated. The team that scored more goals than any other NHL team during the regular season couldn't get going.
Only some great saves by Curtis Joseph early in the game kept the Leafs in the game. Then Thomas scored and it was a new game -- for all of the 67 seconds it took before Sundin struck.
"Sergei [Berezin] made a good play coming around the net," Sundin said. "The puck rolled out and I was able to get it over Vanbiesbrouck's shoulder."
The Flyers knew they'd let the win slip through their fingers. They'd been only two minutes away from a 2-0 series lead.
"We played well defensively but we could have played better offensively," said Jones. "We need to score more goals."
Sundin lauded the Flyers' effort.
"We were very frustrated after the first period," he said. "We came in [to the dressing room] and tried to talk to each other to settle each other down.
"After that, I thought we played better."
Just when it looked as if Philadelphia would post its second straight shutout, Thomas sped down the right wing around Chris Therien, cut to the net and sent a low backhander towards the Vanbiesbrouck. Somehow the puck found an opening between a leg pad and the post.
"Luckily it went in on a backhander," said Thomas. "I don't usually take backhanders because of the curve in my stick."
There was a great sense of relief in the Leafs' dressing room.
"It was a great comeback," said Curtis Joseph. "We've made comebacks all year and that kind of experience and confidence that we have scoring goals paid off tonight. We have enough firepower in this room and we showed that all year. We hoped it was only a matter of time before we broke through."
Notes: Neither team's power play had any juice. Toronto, which was 0-for-6 in Game 1, was 0-for-7 in Game 2. Philadelphia, 1-for-5 in Game 1, was 0-for-4 in Game 2 ... Valeri Zelepukin decided he could not play on the right knee he sprained during Philadelphia's 3-0 Game 1 win. Greig got the spot ... The Leafs used Todd Warriner in place of Igor Korolev, who broke his lower left leg in Game 1 ... The Leafs still haven't used swift rookie defenseman Tomas Kaberle in the series.
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