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Mats Sundin Memory # 7 - Leading By Example

This guy knows.
This guy knows.

For the next two days, we're running 13 of our top memories of Mats Sundin as a Maple Leaf. There are more to choose from but Sundin captaining Sweden to Gold in 2006 and his years as a Nordique won't make an appearance on the list. For help, I enlisted Mats Sundin's biggest fan Eyebleaf to help come up with and number the list. It's far from exhaustive and your mileage may vary on our choices but these were the 13 that came immediately into our minds so consider it a small token of our appreciation for one of the greatest Leafs of all-time.

We're back in 2001 for # 7. This time, we're at game two of the series which was one of the wilder Leafs-Devils playoffs games and a harbinger of the post-lockout shootouts.

Aki Berg and Cory Cross undo an amazing comeback

This was a chance for the Leafs to take a 2-0 lead in New Jersey on the team that had eliminated them the year before. Unfortunately, they were in the process of laying an egg. This is a funny game because I hadn't thought of it as a memory, Eyebleaf did, but as soon as he brought it up I remembered all of the details (or almost, I forgot they went down 5-2 after narrowing the gap to 4-2). We had some family friends over and were in the process of telling them that they were never allowed to come over for a game again (They were offended if you can believe it. They were the ones costing the Leafs the game) and before we knew it we were all jumping and screaming around the living room during the insane third period. Incidentally, the Leafs would eventually fall to the eventual Stanley Cup Finalists in seven games. Sigh, what might have been.

Flashback to the spring of 2001. I'm sure you remember this game: Toronto's in New Jersey, it's the playoffs, game two of the 2001 semifinals against the Devils. The Leafs are down 4-1 after two periods, and are eventually down 5-2 in the third period, before they storm back to send the game to overtime, where they eventually lose. Forget about the loss, and the goal by Randy McKay, though. None of that matters. Not anymore. I want you to think of the third period, when Sundin was a man on a mission; when Mats led his team like he never had before. Sundin registered three points in that fateful third period, two goals and an assist, and he was on the ice when Steve Thomas tied the game with only 23 seconds left on the clock.

Down 4-1 when the third period began, Sundin scored early, 30 seconds into the period. And when the Leafs on the ice skated into their customary group hug to celebrate the goal, Sundin was fiery. As fiery as I'd ever seen him before. Sundin wasn't interested in celebrating his goal. He was interested in telling his teammates that the game was far from over, that he would see to it himself that the game wasn't over. The Leafs were going to come back, and Sundin would take them where they needed to go. And come back the Leafs did. I'll never forget Sundin's reaction in that scrum with his teammates. Sundin was a leader. He proved it. The moment is vivid in my memory, and almost a microcosm of Sundin's career in Toronto. He pulled his weight, he pulled his guys with him, but, for some reason, it was just never enough.