As a Canucks fan stuck in Toronto it's not too often that I get to see my team on television, let alone in person. So I was psyched when I got an e-mail from Leafs' Last Minute Ticket Club last month and scored a ticket to Saturday's Canucks vs. Leafs, Hockey Day in Canada game, and at box office price too. And even more psyched when I realized it was going to be Mats Sundin's first game back in Toronto after signing with Vancouver.
It was the first time I've bought a Leafs ticket (been to a few as a corporate guest) and it was a pretty sweet game. I was surprised by the large number of Canuck jerseys in the audience. Not as many as there'd be Leafs jerseys when I'd go to games in Ottawa or Vancouver, but still a very strong Canucks contingent in the ACC, and loud cheers of “Looouuuuu!” every time Roberto Luongo made a great save. No Looouuuu on that brutal five-hole goal he gave up though, that was Toskala-ish.
I actually thought Vancouver played like crap for most of the game; certainly for the first two period. The Leafs took the play to them, they out-worked and out-hustled them. The Canucks seemed lackadaisical, refusing to hustle and get to loose pucks, loosing a lot of faceoffs, and taking dumb penalties.
I (and everyone else) was interested to see the reaction of Leafs fans to Sundin's return. By and large, it was very positive. There were some boo-birds, but they were largely drowned-out. During a mid-first period TV time-out the Leafs played a video tribute to Sundin that resulted in a two-minute standing-ovation from the ACC crowd. Sundin was on the bench, but seeing the ovation, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault sent Sundin's line onto the ice so he could acknowledge the crowd in an emotional moment.
The Canucks managed to pick it up in the third and tied the game, and there was some frantic and exciting end-to-end chances for both sides late in the third and in the overtime period. Nothing was settled though, setting-up the high-drama of the shoot-out.
Now I felt pretty confident. Who would you rather have in a shoot-out, I asked the Leafs fan a few seats down, Roberto Luongo or Vesa Toskala? The Canucks decided to send-out both their former Leafs for the shoot-out, Sundin and Kyle Wellwood. Good coaching, they've probably had thousands of shots on Toskala in practice with the Leafs.
In the end, it came down to Sundin as the final shooter with a chance to win the game with one-shot and he didn't miss, beating Toskala to give the win to the Canucks. He was named the game's first star, and came back onto the ice for another ovation from the crowd, and to take a bow.
Great night, couldn't have been scripted better.
(Click pics to enlarge)
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