Leafs up to task

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:32 AM ET


 As they say in showbiz, the Maple Leafs have a tough act to follow.

 But repeat tonight they must, or their impressive Game 3 will be just a one-night wonder in a series the Flyers can still close in as little as 72 hours.

 Now that they know the key to stopping the Flyers, do the Leafs have both spirit and body willing to do it three or four more times every other night? The majority of veterans has already been through a seven-game series, an 82-game schedule and 10 exhibitions counting training camp in Sweden. That's closing in on 100 games for a team with an average age of 31.4.

 "Everybody can handle it," Nik Antropov declared yesterday. "That's why (veterans) are still playing -- to go farther in the playoffs. We played (every second day) against Ottawa in the last series."

 As much as they are castigated for being too old, it was that same team demographic that led the way in Wednesday's 4-1 win, repaying coach Pat Quinn's loyalty and reinforcing John Ferguson's horse trading acumen. The Leafs also continue to survive in the playoffs without the injured Joe Nieuwendyk, Owen Nolan and Mikael Renberg, an entire forward line.

 "We'll have to keep it up," Quinn said of maintaining the pace of physical play his team set in Game 3. "That's what playoff hockey is, reaching in and coming up with the kind of effort we've had. You can't win without it and I'm sure we can do that (again)."

 The Leafs won't have the advantage of a second day off but they are taking plenty of solace from playing at win.

 "Coming off a seven-game series, we sure weren't going to complain about a couple of days off," defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "It worked out well for us. We're ready to go the rest of the distance.

 "I think we'll be fine. The crowd has been great, we've been feeding off the energy and it carries over to the ice. It's your building, your rules and you try to set the tone."

 Despite the win, the odds are stacked against the Leafs. Including this season, 260 teams have been down 2-0 and just 35 have rebounded to win a series. One was Montreal against Boston this year. The Leafs are 4-2 in series when trailing 0-2.

 One of the Leafs who put in a day of practice yesterday was Game 3 scoring and hitting hero Alex Mogilny, who played down his exploits. The Flyers viewed Mogilny's late hits on defencemen Marcus Ragnarsson and Danny Markov as sneaky.

 "We're all men here; take a hit, give a hit," Mogilny said. "I wasn't running around. The hit was there. I took it. I was run over a few times myself. You want to get up and give it back."

 His hits still echoed around the ACC yesterday.

 "One guy hits and we all feed off it," McCabe said. "You see guys lay it all on the line and you want to do it, too."


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