Toronto thankful to Thomas for victory

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The Independent Online

There was a British angle to the Toronto Maple Leafs' 2-1 win over Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup quarter-final play-offs on Saturday night when Steve Thomas of Stockport kept the Maple Leafs' hopes alive with the decisive goal.

The victory gave the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series. They kept home ice advantage in a series in which every game has been won by the hosts. Game 6 is tonight in Ottawa.

"This was my biggest game," said Thomas. After several scoring chances by both teams in a tense extra period, Thomas streaked down the right side and redirected a slick pass from Sergei Berezin from the right face-off circle and through Tom Barrasso's pads.

"The sudden-death goal was a return rush, with the side of the net open. I just shovelled it in," said Thomas. "We had to win this. When Ottawa gets ahead they play that system and choke all of the free ice off."

Thomas's second goal of the game was his fifth of the series, the most in the play-offs.

The Leafs trailed 1-0 and had managed only 16 shots before Thomas tied it 15:30 into the third period, beating Barrasso with a brilliant slap-shot from the left face-off circle after assists by Mats Sundin, who was also given an assist on Thomas's first goal, and Alexander Karpovtsev.

Said Barrasso: "I saw Thomas's shot on the first goal, but I gave him just enough room to put the puck and he managed to do just that. It was a perfect shot.

"On the overtime goal, it was two on one and he had the open side. We let this one get away and it hurts to lose a game we controlled."