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Toronto 1, Vancouver 0
Posted: Sunday March 16, 2003 12:37 AM
Toronto Maple Leafs
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Vancouver Canucks
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Ticker) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs may play their best when undermanned. Just ask the Vancouver Canucks.

Ed Belfour recorded his seventh shutout and Owen Nolan scored a power-play goal late in the second period as the Maple Leafs handed the Canucks their first home shutout loss of the season, 1-0.

Already without Gary Roberts, Alexander Mogilny and Doug Gilmour, Toronto lost center Robert Reichel to an upper body injury in the second period. But the Maple Leafs got 23 saves from Belfour and concluded a 2-0-0-1 swing through western Canada.

"With the players we missed due to injuries, we were happy with the result," Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin said. "We know we had to play as good as we can defensively in front of Eddie to give ourselves a chance to win. And we had a good game tonight."

On New Year's Eve at GM Place, Toronto rallied for a 5-3 win without Mogilny, Sundin, Mikael Renberg and Nik Antropov.

"It shows we have a lot of character in this dressing room," Maple Leafs center Travis Green said. "Even when we're missing a lot of guys, other guys step up and play really well."

Belfour stopped six shots in the first period, 12 in the second and five in the third for his 65th career shutout, tops among active goaltenders. He also helped the Maple Leafs kill seven power plays against a team that had gone 5-for-19 with the extra man in its previous four games.

"(The penalty-killers) did an outstanding job," Belfour said. "We've had a lot of practice on it. It's been that way all year."

Toronto cashed in on one of its three power-play chances. With Matt Cooke in the penalty box for charging, Antropov wove his way through the Canucks' defense before sending a pass from behind the goal line to the right faceoff dot. Nolan got enough on a one-timer to send the puck over the left shoulder of rookie goalie Alex Auld.

"I don't know if he fluttered on it, it just seemed to find its way over my shoulder," said Auld, who made 22 saves in his second start of the season. "I think because he fanned on it, it was a bit offspeed. So my timing was a bit off."

Nolan has three goals in four games - all against Vancouver - since he was acquired from the San Jose Sharks.

"(Antropov) deserves all the credit for the goal," Nolan said. "From center, he protected the puck and carried it all the way in. I just tried to find some free ice, and he made a great pass to me."

Despite the loss, the Canucks clinched a playoff berth. They also remained four points ahead of second-place Colorado in the Northwest Division.

Rugged left wing Brad May, acquired from Phoenix at Tuesday's trade deadline, took a hard hit from Sundin midway through the second period and struck his head on the ice. He was motionless for several minutes before his head was immobilizied and he was carted off on a stretcher.

"He's concussed," Vancouver coach Marc Crawford said. "The severity, we'll know as times moves forward. We hope he'll recover quickly. He let go of the puck and wasn't watching and Sundin followed through on his hit."

"He looked like he was trying to drag his toe and turn. And his head dipped," Sundin explained. "And I think I hit him on the chin with my shoulder. The way he laid after, I felt really bad. I hope he's all right."

Four minutes later, with the Canucks on a power play, Brendan Morrison got a rebound in front of the net but was unable to lift a backhander over Belfour. With 4:09 to go in the second, Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi charged out of the penalty box and deflected Trevor Letowski's centering pass off Belfour's chest.

"I'm seeing the puck well and feel strong," Belfour said. "I had a few breaks, too. It was a nice win. It's always fun to have those 1-0 wins."

The Canucks' last good scoring chance came with four minutes to go in the third period. Henrik Sedin made a behind-the-back pass at the left side of the net, but Markus Naslund could not control it after bursting down the slot.

"There was some great goaltending both ways and Belfour made some key saves for them," Naslund said. "I think (Auld) played terrific. He was big in the net and he seemed poised back there. I was impressed."

 


 
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