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Home sweet for fourth time in series

4/30/2004

TORONTO (AP) -- Like most captains, Mats Sundin attempted to
deflect the attention to his teammates.

The Toronto Maple Leafs begged to differ, giving him all the credit for leading them to a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night.

"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.

"He's huge for us all the time," Bryan McCabe said. "He was
our leader tonight, and everyone else followed."

Sundin scored twice, and had a chance to add a few more, in
helping Toronto win its second straight to even the best-of-seven,
second-round playoff series. Game 5 will be at Philadelphia on Sunday.

Not bad for someone who was playing only his third game after
missing four with a leg injury.

"It felt good," Sundin said. "There's nothing that bothers me
with my skating so for sure, a lot better."

That was particularly evident on Sundin's second goal, which capped a
great individual effort to give Toronto a 2-1 lead 7:45 into the
second period.

Carrying the puck up the right side, Sundin cut to the middle,
catching Flyers defender Vladimir Malakhov flat-footed. Kicking the
puck to his stick, Sundin then threaded a back-hander, beating
Robert Esche through the legs.

Darcy Tucker also scored and Gary Roberts had two assists for
Toronto, which bounced back after losing the first two games at
Philadelphia.

Belfour stopped 28 shots to record his 88th career playoff victory, moving him into a tie for third place with former New York Islanders great Billy Smith.

The Leafs have won five straight at home, the first time they've
done that in one postseason since winning five in a row in 1976.

Simon Gagne scored for Philadelphia, which continues to look
flat after a 4-1 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday and has been playing nothing
like the team that opened the postseason by winning six of its
first seven.

"They're getting production from key people," Flyers coach Ken
Hitchcock said. "If we're going to win the series, we're going to
have to get the same production from our key people."

Mark Recchi, who led the Flyers with 75 points in the regular
season, took responsibility for the team's lack of offensive
production.

"You can't come into another team's building and score two
goals," 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."

Gagne's goal, which opened the scoring eight minutes in, came on a
gift after McCabe muffed a pass attempt in front of his own net.

The bounces went Toronto's way when Sundin tied it 10 minutes later, his shot deflecting in off the leg of Flyers defender Marcus Ragnarsson.

The game's momentum shifted midway through the first period
after the Flyers had outshot the Leafs 10-5. Toronto rallied and
was outshooting Philadelphia 21-13 when Sundin scored his second
goal.

"They had the momentum for sure in the first 10 minutes or
so," Sundin said. "Even though they got the lead, I thought we
battled hard. It was a great team effort."

It was Sundin's first two-goal playoff game since he scored
twice against New Jersey in the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals.
It was also Sundin's 68th playoff point, moving him into second
place -- one ahead of Dave Keon -- among Toronto playoff scorers.

And Sundin had a chance for a third goal, hitting the crossbar
on a breakaway with 20 seconds left in the second.

"Sometimes you have too much time to think," Sundin said,
shaking his head. "I wish I had that one back."

Tucker put the game away, deflecting in McCabe's shot from the
point for a power-play goal two minutes into the third.

Toronto's offense is suddenly capitalizing on its chances,
having scored seven goals in its last two games, after managing
just 16 in their first nine playoff outings.

Game notes
Flyers assistant coach Craig Hartsburg escorted a Toronto
radio personality out of a doughnut shop Friday after the
unidentified person confronted coach Ken Hitchcock, Flyers
spokesman Zack Hill said. ... Flyers D Kim Johnsson returned after
missing the first three games of the series with a broken bone in
his right hand. ... Leafs C Joe Nieuwendyk missed his third
straight game with what is believed to be a back problem.
Nieuwendyk has practiced for the last three days and is hopeful to
play in Game 5.