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Toronto has four games left; Boston has five

BOSTON (AP) -- Ed Belfour came to the right place for another
shutout.

Boston was blanked for a team-record eighth time at home, and
Belfour posted his eighth shutout of the season, leading the
Toronto Maple Leafs to a 3-0 victory Thursday night.

"I don't have an explanation for it," Boston coach Mike
Sullivan said. "We generate as many scoring chances at home as we
do on the road."

Toronto got goals from Joe Nieuwendyk and Ron Francis -- his
first since being obtained from Carolina on March 9 -- in the first
nine minutes of the second period and an empty-net goal from Nik
Antropov with 1:43 left in the game.

Belfour made sure that was enough.

It's not as if he needs a road-ice advantage in stopping shots.
His 73 career shutouts rank 10th in NHL history.

"I've played with him a long time and been through a few wars
with him," said Nieuwendyk, Belfour's former teammate with Dallas.
"He will come through when it counts."

It did Thursday when Toronto cut Boston's lead in the Northeast
Division to one point, 97-96. The Bruins have five regular-season
games left, while the Maple Leafs have four.

Belfour made 33 saves, the same amount he had in his last game,
a 7-2 loss Tuesday night to Tampa Bay.

"A lot of teams might be affected by a 7-2 loss, but we
responded," Nieuwendyk said.

Belfour faced few difficult shots by Boston, which was hurt by
four penalties in the first period.

"We wanted to keep (the puck) near the net as much as possible
but they collapsed really well," Boston's Joe Thornton said of
Toronto's skaters. "Eddie only got tested about five or six
times."

Francis, 41; Belfour, 38; and Nieuwendyk, 37; were the Maple
Leafs' stars.

"Our veteran players shored up their game," Toronto coach Pat
Quinn said. "We were disciplined and did the simple things we
hadn't been doing recently."

The Maple Leafs came back from a 2-1 loss to Boston nine days
earlier and are 4-2 in their last six games. The Bruins lost for
just the second time in 10 games (7-2-1) and suffered their 10th
shutout of the season. The previous team record for home shutouts
was six in 1951-52.

Nieuwendyk scored his fifth goal in nine games and 19th of the
season from just outside the crease on a rebound after goalie
Andrew Raycroft stopped a shot by Antropov.

Francis connected at 8:40 on a soft 15-footer that fooled
defenseman Sergei Gonchar and Raycroft, who were expecting a harder
blast.

"He missed it, a changeup, a Tim Wakefield knuckleball,"
Raycroft said.

It was Francis' 11th goal of the season and his 137th point in
130 games against the Bruins.

"It wasn't a pretty goal and I don't know if it even hit the
back of the net," Francis said.

Game notes
Nine of the Bruins' 18 losses have been shutouts. They also
had a 0-0 tie. ... The teams split the season series 3-3, with
Belfour getting two shutouts. ... Antropov has goals in three
consecutive games. ... Boston is 24-7-5-3 since Jan. 1, gaining 56
of a possible 78 points.