Matt Stajan had Alexander Suglobov and Wade Belak on his wings with little effectiveness, while John Pohl centred Darcy Tucker and Nik Antropov until Antropov got hurt and left the game. That’s what head coach Paul Maurice went with up front in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ pre-season finale, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.
Maurice might make adjustments before the NHL season opener Wednesday against the visiting Ottawa Senators, but the dress rehearsal provided a feasible framework, although Antropov left after one period with a lower right leg injury.
The lanky Kazakh offered to finish the game, but Maurice said: “I told him to put some ice on it and, ‘We’ll see yuh tomorrow.”‘
Before the shootout, Sundin and Pavel Kubina scored for the Leafs, while Kris Draper and Danny Markov scored for Detroit.
Sundin and Jiri Hudler traded shootout goals and, after Suglobov shot wide of Chris Osgood, Henrik Zetterberg completely fooled Andrew Raycroft by deking and then dragging the puck across the goal-line with one hand on his stick.
“I was thinking everything but that,” said Raycroft. “I knew he was going to throw something stupid at me but I didn’t expect a one-hander.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock had a chuckle about the way it ended.
“The kid in the shootout, Hudler, he’s just magic, unbelievable,” Babcock said with a smile. “But Z is okay, too. He had a nice one there.”
Wellwood had a chance to extend things but Osgood made a fabulous mitt save to end the game.
Sundin had a game-high five shots on goal, and it is clear that Wellwood’s playmaking skills will be an asset to the captain this season.
“He has such tremendous skills that he can make a play in the blink of an eye,” says Wellwood.
On the back end for the Leafs, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle were once again a pair, Kubina was with Andy Woznieski before he was ejected, and Hall Gill and Ian White were a duo.
Maurice picked Steen for special mention. After playing somewhat conservatively in previous games, the sophomore Leaf “had a bit more abandon in his game.”
Steen is hoping he’ll be with Peca and Kilger on Wednesday.
“It was great fun,” he said of the Sunday experience. “They’re such easy guys to play with.”
Jeff O’Neill sat out both weekend games with the Wings, but Maurice isn’t ruling him out of the mix even though at this stage “he’s not the Jeff O’Neill I know he can be.” Maurice said the possibility of the veteran forward being placed on waivers so he could be sent to the AHL Marlies is “highly unlikely.”
Kubina opened the scoring when he rushed in from his defence position to convert a Peca pass from behind the net at 2:14.
Draper ducked behind Kaberle to coral a Brett Lebda pass and score a short-handed goal on a breakaway at 14:50.
Kubina got an early shower when he reacted to a push from Hudler after a whistle at 18:03 by cross-checking Hudler in the face.
Markov slipped into the middle of the Toronto zone to snap a Mikael Samuelsson pass behind Raycroft high on the mitt side for a power-play goal at 9:25 of the second period.
Sundin made it 2-2 when he slammed home a rebound on a power play 10:34 into the third.
Toronto won only three of its eight exhibitions, but no points were lost.
“I think we’ve got another couple of levels to go yet,” said Tucker.
After a shaky game Saturday in a 4-2 Detroit win, Raycroft bounced back impressively.
“His angles looked pretty sharp,” said Maurice.
Detroit won six of its nine pre-season games.
“This was our last exhibition game and everyone wanted to set a good example, show the coaches what they’re capable of,” said Kirk Maltby. “We lost some veteran experience over the off-season, and our younger guys have had nine games to prove themselves.
“I’m not saying (we’re on) a youth movement, but it’s definitely giving guys the opportunity.”
Babcock said he was impressed with the Leafs.
“They’re skating better than I expected, and they’re coming at you better than I expected,” he said. “They’re going to do fine.”
Notes: Detroit outshot Toronto 28-23 . . . Both teams were 1-for-7 on power plays . . . Maurice used Peca and Kilger as his primary penalty killers . . . Detroit didn’t dress regulars Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Chris Chelios, Mathieu Schneider, Jason Williams and Dan Cleary. “I thought our kids hung in there and found a way to win,” said Babcock . . . Pohl and Suglobov tied for the team lead in pre-season goals with three each . . . Announced attendance was 18,868 . . . The only regular-season game between the two Original Six rivals is Dec. 9 at Detroit.