Leafs Look To Tie It Up
GAME: Philadelphia Flyers at Toronto Maple Leafs.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference semifinals; Flyers lead 2-1.
TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EDT.
The Toronto Maple Leafs racheted up their physical play and fed off the raucous Air Canada Centre crowd to get back in their playoff series with the Philadelphia Flyers.
With the Leafs now in position to pull even after a Game 3 win, the Flyers can expect all of that and more in a crucial Game 4.
Using a gritty style that helped them rekindle their sputtering offence, the Maple Leafs rebounded from losing the first two games in Philadelphia with a 4-1 victory Wednesday night.
Alexander Mogilny led the way, scoring a pretty breakaway goal that sparked a three-goal second period, and also surprisingly providing a physical presence that established the tone for a desperate Leafs team.
"Well, they haven't been in this situation in the playoffs yet," Leafs enforcer Tie Domi said of the Flyers' obvious frustration. "When they come up against a little adversity, and they're down a few goals, they haven't dealt with that yet.
"It was nice to get that win, and hopefully we'll come back here and get that same emotion going."
Known more for his playmaking, Mogilny delivered several big body checks, including one on Danny Markov in the first period that forced the Flyers defenseman to limp off the ice.
Mogilny's hitting irritated Philadelphia's Jeremy Roenick and Marcus Ragnarsson, both of whom were goaded into penalties in the third period. Ragnarsson's slashing penalty - combined with a cross-checking minor to Markov - gave Toronto a two-man advantage, and the Leafs' Darcy Tucker converted at 11:36 to give his team a three-goal advantage.
Alexei Ponikarovsky and Chad Kilger also scored for Toronto, which played like a different team in front of its home fans after managing one goal in each of the two defeats at the First Union Center.
"It's big," Mogilny said of the victory. "What do you think? We come home down 2-0. We lose this game, it's pretty much over. We knew what was at stake."
It showed in the Leafs' defensive effort. They held the Flyers to 19 shots, making things relatively easy for Ed Belfour.
The Leafs' goaltender made 18 saves as he outplayed the Flyers' Robert Esche for the first time in the series. Esche stopped 25 shots.
"I just think our intensity level dropped and Toronto's went up, and that was the difference," Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've pushed their level up there.
"This is going to be a four-line series packed with intensity and physical play, and you had just better get used to it."
Roenick, no stranger to physical play, was hardly surprised the Leafs came out hitting.
"Some of their guys that didn't show up in Philadelphia had a bigger backbone tonight," Roenick said. "But you have to give them a lot of credit. They were under the gun."
Toronto still couldn't find a way to completely shut down Flyers center Alexei Zhamnov, who assisted on Tony Amonte's second-period goal to extend his point streak to eight games (four goals, seven assists).
The key for the Flyers in Game 4, though, will be regaining their poise after the Leafs were so successful at taking it away Wednesday night. It's doubtful Toronto will wait long to attempt to set the tone again, meaning Domi - and Mogilny - could see plenty of ice time early.
"It's nice to see him play with emotion," Domi said of Mogilny's Game 3 hitting. "He's our game-breaker for us."
Toronto may have to make do again without Joe Nieuwendyk, who missed his second straight game Wednesday with a back injury. The status of Nieuwendyk, who leads Toronto with five playoff goals, is uncertain for Thursday.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, will get steady defenceman Kim Johnsson back in the lineup for Game 4. Johnsson, who recorded six points in Philadelphia's five-game victory over New Jersey in the quarterfinals, missed the first three games of this series with a broken bone in his left hand.
The scene shifts back to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Sunday afternoon.