The Maple Leafs can be one of the National Hockey League's most creative teams during the regular season.
But get them to the Wachovia Center in the spring, expose them to the Philadelphia Flyers, take away last line change and they suddenly become just another bunch of starving artists.
"They (Flyers) are a team that could have been taken," coach Pat Quinn said in frustration last night after the Leafs lost the second-round series opener 3-1. "You've got to smell it when there is a chance. It was there for us and we didn't smell it."
Quinn was referring to a pair of power plays in the first three minutes and a second period that the Leafs started in determined fashion with the score still 1-1.
But in the Leafs' most recent eight playoff games in Philadelphia, the Leafs have scored just 14 goals.
A year to the day of a 6-1 loss in Game 7 that bounced them from the playoffs, they were once again out worked on key goals.
"We didn't do ourselves any favours," Leafs winger Gary Roberts said. "(Goalie) Eddie Belfour has been there for us and we didn't play strong in front of him."
After Alex Mogilny fanned on a clearing attempt, Tony Amonte pumped a rebound past Belfour at 7:14 to open the scoring. That ended Toronto's playoff streak of seven games in which it scored the first goal.
Mogilny picked up a fluke deflection goal of his own, but Nik Antropov, one of Joe Nieuwendyk's unproductive Sky Line wingers, had a Marcus Ragnarsson shot go off his leg and past Belfour for the winner. John LeClair beat the trio to set up Simon Gagne's insurance goal in the third.
The Flyers got the line matchup they wanted, sending Alexei Zhamnov, Amonte and Jeremy Roenick against Ron Francis, Mogilny and Roberts and it worked well for them.
The Leafs managed 23 mostly harmless shots on Robert Esche, who looks like a huge upgrade on past playoff netminders for Philly. The Leafs will have to test him a lot more on Sunday in Game 2 to find out for certain.
"We have to get more pucks on him because he leaves lots of rebounds," forward Tom Fitzgerald said.
Quinn decided the heavy hitting might hamper Matt Stajan's effectiveness, so he gave Clarke Wilm his first start of the playoffs on a line with Chad Kilger and Fitzgerald. Wilm drew a Primeau penalty and got under the Flyers' skin during most of the game. The unlucky Wilm had never made the playoffs in five years with Calgary or Nashville -- both of whom finally qualified this year while Wilm sat all seven games against the Ottawa Senators.
As expected, the Flyers came hard at Toronto to take advantage of having almost a week off, where the Leafs had beaten the Sens and travelled here Wednesday.
"We'll be all right," defenceman Bryan McCabe said, a repeat of his Game 1 quote after Ottawa pulled out an unexpected win. "Everyone said afterward we'll just focus on Sunday. This wasn't our best game, but we know we can go a little harder.
"It's going to be a long hard series and we want to get off to a better start next game."
The Flyers have some holes on their defence with Kim Johnsson and Eric Desjardins out, but they received a good game from Sami Kapanen, who was shifted back to the blueline and had an assist.
Philadelphia has now won five of six playoff games this year.
Mark Recchi lent a subtle assist on Marcus Ragnarsson goal, bumping Joe Nieuwendyk out of the play to allow the point shot through. Nik Antropov was caught screening Ed Belfour and the puck glanced off of him to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
Bruising Flyers bash Leafs
LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun
, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET