Big Mats

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

 Were Mats Sundin one of those egotistical prima donnas concerned only with personal stats, he would have mockingly pointed a finger at Doug Gilmour and proclaimed, "You're next!"

 It would have been so easy.

  Gilmour was sitting just five rows behind the Philadelphia Flyers net when Sundin squeezed a backhand shot through the legs of Robert Esche early in the second period last night at the raucous Air Canada Centre.

 IMPRESSIVE

 Not only did Sundin's second goal of the game prove to be the winner for the never-say-die Maple Leafs in an impressive 3-1 victory, but it also allowed him to pass the legendary Dave Keon for second place on the team's career post-season scoring list.

 The Maple Leafs captain now has 68 career playoff points in a Toronto jersey, good enough to move to within nine of Gilmour's franchise mark.

 But the modest Sundin was not about to leer at Gilmour and start beating his chest with self admiration.

 The only numbers the big Swede cared about on this night were on the scoreboard, which showed the Leafs collecting an impressive two-goal victory that evened this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final at 2-2 heading into Game 5 tomorrow at the Wachovia Center.

 "It's easy to be a leader on this team that we have," Sundin said. "We have seven or eight guys that have been captains in their previous hockey clubs and almost as many guys who won Stanley Cups on different teams, so we really do have a group thing with leadership."

 Only a crossbar kept Sundin from completing his hat trick in the final minute of the second period, after Brian Leetch hit him with a breakaway pass.

 "I saw lot of net up in the left corner," Sundin said.

 "I wish I had that one back."

 After missing the series opener because of an upper left leg/groin injury, Sundin has played better with each passing game.

 To no one's surprise, so have the Leafs.

 The Flyers still hold home-ice advantage, meaning the Leafs must win a road game to advance to the Eastern final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 But at least coach Pat Quinn can be encouraged by the fact his team seems to be growing stronger as the series progresses. And with Joe Nieuwendyk a legitimate bet to return tomorrow, thanks to his improving back, there is reason for optimism within the Toronto dressing room.

 "When you get the guy going who drives the bus, it couldn't come at a better time," Nieuwendyk said of Sundin.

 FLYERS SLOWING

 On the other hand, it couldn't come at a worse time for the Flyers, who suddenly have lost any momentum they had built after winning the first two games in Philly.

 And if the loss wasn't bad enough, coach Ken Hitchcock yesterday had to deal with a heckling radio personality at a Toronto donut shop who eventually needed to be escorted out of the establishment by assistant coach Craig Hartsburg.

 Earlier in the day, some yahoo snuck into the Flyers hotel and started banging on the door of forward Jeremy Roenick. The rabble-rouser was taken out of the building.

 The Flyers only wish they could have booted Sundin out of the arena last night.

 TURNING POINT

 Gary Roberts sent Mats Sundin away down the right side on a 3-on-2 midway through the second period. Without a clear passing option, Sundin took defenceman Vladimir Malakhov wide and, still without a play to his liking, took charge, deking Malakhov and burying a backhand for the go-ahead goal.


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