Mats Sundin got a standing ovation and a victory in his return to Toronto, notching the shootout winner to seal the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday.
The Maple Leafs long-time captain and all-time leading scorer rifled a backhand into the top corner past Vesa Toskala to earn the surging Canucks their eighth win in nine games and cap an emotional visit to the city he called home for 13 seasons.
The goal provided a fitting conclusion to a moving night for Sundin, whose appearance was met with both jeers and cheers.
When Sundin first stepped on the Air Canada Center ice he was welcomed with a chorus of boos, but a montage of the big Swede’s greatest Toronto moments shown on the big screen during a break in the opening period received a standing ovation.
Sundin’s long-standing love affair with Toronto sports fans hit the rocks last year when the rebuilding Leafs attempted to deal their captain at the trade deadline.
However, Sundin scuppered any deals when he refused to waive his no-trade clause, then drew the wrath of some fans who were left feeling betrayed when he decided not to return to Toronto.
If there was any lingering ill-feeling, it seemed forgotten when Sundin was named player of the game and returned to ice, fighting back tears as he waved to his once-again adoring legion of fans.
Toronto opened the scoring on a first period powerplay goal from Jason Blake, while the Canucks answered with an extra-man tally of their own midway through the second from Sami Salo.
The Maple Leafs regained the lead before the end of the period, but the Canucks responded again to force overtime.
CANADIENS 5, SENATORS 3
At Montreal, Alex Kovalev had a goal and two assists against Ottawa in his return to Montreal’s lineup after a two-game banishment because of his listless play.
In other games it was:
• Penguins 5, Flyers 4
• Sharks 3, Thrashers 1
• Sabres 4, Rangers 2
• Wild 5, Red Wings 2
• Blackhawks 3, Stars 1
• Flames 3, Oilers 2, SO
• Islanders 4, Devils 0
• Coyotes 6, Kings 3
• Panthers 2, Bruins 0
• Predators 1, Blues 0, OT
• Ducks 5, Blue Jackets 2