Leafs bully way to win

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:14 PM ET


 Necessity being the mother of invention, the Bay Street Bullies were reborn last night.

 Down 2-0 in their series against the Philadelphia Flyers, a pale imitation of the original Broad Street Bullies, the Maple Leafs put on their gorilla suits and drummed out a 4-1 victory.

 After being frustrated in back-to-back games by Flyers goalie Robert Esche and his makeshift defensive corps, Toronto came out in Game 3 with the clear intent to physically manhandle the Flyers in general, with special emphasis on their depleted defenders.

 It's not as if the notion of playing physical hockey just occurred to Pat Quinn and his team. They do it all the time. But seldom do they play it with such ferocity, from top to bottom in the lineup.

 BODY CHECKS

 "We needed to change where we were playing a lot of the game, putting it in their zone," Quinn said. "Which included being able to finish some body checks on their team."

 This wasn't just a case of the usual suspects applying the body. Everybody in blue got into the act, including that noted goon Alexander Mogilny. It was not a pretty thing to behold but it definitely provided the change in fortunes that the Leafs were seeking.

 You'd probably have to go back to the vendetta between Toronto and the New York Islanders two years ago to find a recent Leafs playoff game, or games, that matched the vicious undertones that came into play last night.

 It never erupted into full-scale fighting, though it threatened to do so a couple of times, but it was about as rugged as it gets in today's NHL.

 The Leafs spent the first period pounding what's left of Philadelphia's defence with all the heavy artillery they possess. The shock and awe campaign claimed at least one casualty when Marcus Ragnarsson, one of the few remaining regulars on the Philly blue line, limped off the ice after a direct hit from Mogilny, of all people.

 Later, in the third period, Ragnarsson would exact some revenge when he slashed Mogilny in the back of the knee with the point of his stick blade.

 Toronto's robust approach continued in the early moments of the second period, when it started paying dividends on the scoreboard. Mogilny scored on a breakaway, sent clear by Mats Sundin. Then Alexei Ponikarovsky and Chad Kilger each scored on deflections.

 The teams traded goals after that but the game was beyond doubt by that time. Toronto's physical message had been delivered. And it's hard to imagine they won't crank it up in much the same fashion tomorrow. You know if they do, it's unlikely the Flyers will accept the consequences as mildly as they did last night.

 "(The Leafs) pushed the level up," Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think if you look at Pat's lineup, the minutes are almost the same throughout the lineup.

 "This is going to be a four-line series, packed with intensity and physical play and you better just get used to it."

 It also helped the Leafs that there were two off-days between games this time around because it allowed them time to get rested and a tad healthier. More than that, it took away much of the momentum that the Flyers had earned at home.

 "There's too much downtime, too much time to lose energy," Hitchcock said. "Now you have to start it up again. I just think our level of intensity dropped and Toronto's went up."

 The desperation that the Leafs brought to the rink was not matched, not even close, by Philadelphia. They just weren't prepared for a Toronto team intent on being this ruthless.

 If the Leafs can sustain it through tomorrow's Game 4 to send the series back to Philly all square, then it could be the start of a new era.

 "I don't think there's any sense of relief," Sundin said. "It was obviously a desperate situation. The next game is as important as this one. Nobody wants to go back to Philly down 3-1."

 The Bullies live. Not on Broad Street, but on Bay. At least for one night.


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