To be continued?

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:43 PM ET


 Like the cliffhanger of a Batman episode, the public is once more fretting about the Maple Leafs and how they can wiggle out of this jam.

 With a reputation for bouncing back from bad games and a 5-5 record when facing playoff elimination under Pat Quinn, tonight could see the Leafs pull something out of their utility belts just like the caped crusaders.

 But the Leafs can only rally from their 3-2 series deficit against the Philadelphia Flyers by being of sound mind and body. That's not easy after the sting of a 7-2 loss in Game 5 and the tall task of earning victories here and in Game 7 at the hostile Wachovia Center.

 Quinn has avoided the hoary bromide that the Leafs are in a "must-win" situation or have to "play desperate" -- believing such approaches make a team too reckless.

 "We've had the same things happen in Game 7s here (the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders self-destructed at the Air Canada Centre)," Quinn said yesterday after what could've been the last full practice of 2003-04.

 "But on the road in Game 7s, we haven't been able to do that. Maybe we've had our Game 7 (blow-up) in Game 5. It has happened a lot of times before, where the big game gets left at the breakfast table.

 "It's important to be afraid to lose, but those thoughts need to be pushed into the positive," Quinn said. "This team has been in tough situations before and responded and I suspect it will again."

 Based on the end of Game 5, Toronto looked 60 minutes away from elimination. Ed Belfour was driven out of the net, the Leafs mustered only three third-period shots, Ken Klee was gone with a series-ending knee injury and Bryan McCabe was handling the puck like a hand grenade.

 CONFIDENCE

 However, a day's rest and the friendly confines of home ice where the Leafs are 5-0 boosted confidence yesterday.

 "I think this team plays a lot better when it's down like this," winger Wade Belak said. "I have faith we'll win (tonight) and go back there for Game 7."

 Quinn and new general manager John Ferguson built a team with veteran presence for just such a circumstance. Toronto's cast of Stanley Cup winners dwarfs that of the Flyers, though Quinn said experience is no guarantee of going back to Philly tomorrow.

 "It doesn't matter if we had a bunch of kids, you'd be asking them to step up," Quinn said. "I don't think we're thinking of Game 7 yet, they're just thinking about (tonight)."

 The Leafs hope they can light up the Flyers' projected Game 6 starter Robert Esche as they did in the first two games in Toronto.

 "We should have the same energy as we did before here," Belak said. "It always works in our favour and hopefully it will again."

 PAINFUL ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

 The Maple Leafs are 5-5 under coach Pat Quinn when facing elimination from the playoffs. Here's a recap:

 DATE SCORE

 - 20/4/2004 Maple Leafs 4, Senators 1 @ Toronto

 - 22/4/2003 Flyers 6, Maple Leafs 1 @ Philadelphia

 - 21/4/2003 Maple Leafs 2, Flyers 1 (OT) @ Toronto

 - 28/5/2002 Hurricanes 2, Maple Leafs 1 (OT) @ Toronto

 - 14/5/2002 Maple Leafs 3, Senators 0 @ Toronto

 - 12/5/2002 Maple Leafs 4, Senators 3 @ Ottawa

 - 30/4/2002 Maple Leafs 4, Islanders 2 @ Toronto

 - 9/5/2001 Devils 5, Maple Leafs 1 @ New Jersey

 - 8/5/2000 Devils 3, Leafs 0 @ New Jersey


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