Looking To Pull Ahead In Philly
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs at Philadelphia Flyers.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference semifinals; series tied 2-2.
TIME: Sunday, 4 p.m. EDT.
Mats Sundin and Ed Belfour are feeling good, and so are the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With their captain at full strength and their goaltender back in top form, the Maple Leafs ride a big wave of momentum into the Wachovia Center for Game 5 of their semifinal series with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Sundin sat out the series opener - missing his fourth straight game with a leg injury - and was relatively ineffective in Game 2 as Toronto lost the opening two contests in Philadelphia.
The 33-year-old center looked better in Game 3, assisting on Alexander Mogilny's goal in a 4-1 victory, and was the star of Game 4 as he scored twice in Friday's 3-1 win to help the Leafs even the series.
"It felt good," Sundin said of his leg. "There's nothing that bothers me with my skating so for sure, a lot better."
Sundin came close to getting a hat trick on a few occasions, including one breakway chance on which he hit the crossbar with 20 seconds left in the second period.
"He's definitely one of the best players I've ever played with and he shows up for big games every time," Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour said.
Belfour was outstanding in the first round, posting three shutouts in leading Toronto past Ottawa in seven games. He did not appear to be at his best in Philadelphia, giving up five goals on 50 shots, but played much better in front of the home fans as he stopped 46 of 48 shots, including 28 saves Friday.
"We got to the net tonight better, and got some pretty good whacks at it, but (Belfour) is great at controlling rebounds as well as getting rebounds out of harm's way," Flyers captain Keith Primeau said.
Besides having all the momentum going back to Philadelphia, the Leafs also may get a boost with the return of centre Joe Nieuwendyk. The team leader with five goals this postseason, Nieuwendyk is hoping to play in Game 5 after missing three games with what is believed to be a back problem.
The teams head back to Philadelphia with their playoff series tied 2-2 for the second straight year, though this time both should feel better rested.
In last season's quarterfinals, Game 3 was decided in double overtime and Game 4 needed three overtimes. The Flyers went on to win Games 5 and 7 at home, sandwiched around a double-overtime loss at Toronto.
Philadelphia will not win this series if its special teams are as bad as they were in Game 4. The Flyers managed only one shot in going scoreless on four power-play opportunities. They went 3-for-10 in the first three games.
Toronto was 0-for-6 with the man advantage Friday, but Philadelphia had trouble just clearing the zone. Darcy Tucker's goal in the third period came only one second after Marcus Ragnarsson's interference penalty ended.
Simon Gagne scored eight minutes into the first period Thursday to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead, but their offense again looked flat for most of the game.
"You can't come into another team's building and score two goals," Flyers winger Mark Recchi said. "That's part of my responsibility. I take a lot of the heat for that. I know I've got to be a lot better offensively."
Recchi, who led the Flyers with 75 points in the regular season, has only one assist in this series and just two points in the playoffs. Neither Jeremy Roenick nor John Leclair has any points in the last three games.
"They're getting production from key people," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Leafs. "If we're going to win the series we're going to have to get the same production from our key people."
The series goes back to Toronto for Game 6 on Tuesday. Game 7, if necessary, would be Thursday in Philadelphia.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Maple Leafs - 4th seed; beat Ottawa Senators 4-3, quarterfinals. Flyers - 3rd seed; beat New Jersey Devils 4-1, quarterfinals
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Nieuwendyk, 5 goals; Brian Leetch, 8 assists; Leetch and Bryan McCabe, 8 points; Tie Domi, 19 PIM. Flyers - Alex Zhamnov, 4 goals, 7 assists and 11 points; Ragnarsson, 10 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Maple Leafs - Power play: 10.2 percent (5 for 49). Penalty killing: 86.7 percent (39 for 45). Flyers - Power play: 26.9 percent (7 for 26). Penalty killing: 86.2 percent (25 for 29).
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Belfour (6-5, 3 SO, 1.59 GAA); Trevor Kidd (no appearances). Flyers - Robert Esche (5-1, 1, 1.67); Sean Burke (no appearances).-- Associated Press