Leafs push their way back into it

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:34 PM ET


 Many Maple Leafs are sporting scruffy playoff beards this spring.

 Now they appear to be growing fangs as well.

 Like a pack of wild dogs who are most dangerous when cornered, the Leafs always seem to be effective when their backs are against the wall.

 That is the time when they turn mean.

 That is the time when they look for blood.

 And, more often than not, that is the time when they win.

 Just ask Jeremy Roenick, who had his face wallpapered into the glass by Alexander Mogilny, of all people, last night.

 Or how about Donald Brashear, who found himself targeted all night by perennial Lady Byng Trophy candidate Aki Berg.

 While grit is a word hardly used when describing Mogilny or Berg, such was the ornery temperament of a Leafs team looking to kick Philadelphia Flyer butt.

 And that's exactly what they did, physically pounding the Flyers en route to a 4-1 win in front of a roaring capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre.

 "That's what I've always been telling you -- I'm just a plumber," said Mogilny, who took time out from smacking around the odd Flyer to open the scoring on a beautiful breakaway goal early in the second period.

 With apologies to the supremely skilled Mogilny, the Leafs' legitimate plumbers such as Darcy Tucker, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Chad Kilger also chipped in with some much-needed goals to give the team life in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final.

 The Flyers lead the series 2-1, but the momentum appears to be in Toronto's favour heading into Game 4 tomorrow night.

 Whether it turns into an episode of Friday Night Fights remains to be seen, but at least Leafs coach Pat Quinn can be encouraged by the fact that his team is finally scoring, whether it be from the skilled stars or the lesser lights.

 In their 13 previous post-season games, the Leafs had managed to register more than two goals once -- a 4-1 win in the decisive Game 7 against Ottawa.

 "We're just going to the net and good things happened," Kilger said. "Our game plan didn't change, we just seemed to have a little more jump out there.

 "Even when I was with Montreal, Toronto was always an emotional team and part of that comes from being aggressive."

 Not since that memorable seven-game series against the New York Islanders two springs ago had the Leafs been involved in such a knock-down, at times vicious, playoff battle.

 In the end, they had little choice. A loss would have put the Flyers up 3-0 in the series, a deficit only two teams in NHL history -- the 1942 Leafs and '75 Islanders -- had overcome.

 "We wanted it. We weren't just going to roll over," Tie Domi said.

 The physical nature of the game did takes its toll on a couple of Leafs.

 Defenceman Brian Leetch seemed to hurt his hand midway through the third period, while Mogilny was felled by a vicious hack to the back of the leg by Marcus Ragnarsson several minutes later. Both were able to return.

 And should Joe Nieuwendyk's back heal in time to allow him to do the same tomorrow, the Leafs will have an even better shot to send the series back to Philly tied at 2-2.

 TURNING POINT

 - At 5:12 of the second period, Mats Sundin pipelined a pass through the Flyers to a breaking Alex Mogilny, who went blocker side on Robert Esche. The goal broke a seven-game streak of the Flyers scoring first and kept them off balance the rest of the game.


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