Heads up

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:48 PM ET


 From the Battle of Ontario to Hoagie Night In Philadelphia, the next step of the Maple Leafs' Stanley Cup trek begins where it ended last year.

 Toronto sent the Ottawa Senators back to the drawing board with a 4-1 victory last night in Game 7, its fourth consecutive series win over the star-crossed Sens in five years, earning a rematch with the Flyers starting tomorrow.

 The Leafs' edge in goaltending turned into a chasm as wide as the Ottawa Valley last night, with Ed Belfour outclassing Patrick Lalime and backup Martin Prusek to ring in his 39th birthday today.

 GREAT SAVES

 After two Joe Nieuwendyk goals opened the game up -- Toronto scored first in every game -- Belfour was making eye-popping saves in the third period, as close to 20,000 fans chanted his name.

 "The guys came out hard right from the start (getting a series' high three goals in the first period)," Belfour said. "Joe and I played together in Dallas and he's a big game player with a tricky shot.

 "I feel good. I'm going to enjoy my (birthday) cake."

 Belfour made 35 saves last night, 227 in the series, allowing just 11 goals.

 "The only thing he didn't do for us in this series was score," a grateful Ron Francis said.

 The Leafs' third consecutive Game 7 win at the Air Canada Centre since the 2002 playoffs was also credited to the fourth line of Tie Domi, Chad Kilger and Robert Reichel.

 Domi's frenetic corner digging early in the first produced Kilger's first goal since 1996 as a Winnipeg Jet.

 "I scored that in my first playoff game on Mike Vernon and it has been 26 or 27 games since," Kilger said.

 Five of the 11 scoring points last night were generated by newcomers brought in by new Leafs general manager John Ferguson.

 "When John did that, it was because this team had been bitten by the injury bug before," Kilger said. "It's a credit to him and the guys that came in."

 Nieuwendyk's first dipping shot made Lalime look like he was being fitted for a straight- jacket, and a weak five-hole goal late in the period sealed Lalime's fate.

 Coach Jacques Martin changed to Prusek in the second and it briefly ignited the Senators, as Vaclav Varada beat Belfour 22 seconds into the period. But Bryan McCabe iced the game in the third, triggering a horn-honking celebration outside the ACC.

 As expected, the Mats Sundin comeback did not materialize, though he came out a second day for a short skate with teammates in the morning.

 CUP WINNER

 His leg muscle injury will sideline him part or all of the next series. Sundin did not speak to the media yesterday.

 Three-time Cup winner Nieuwendyk supplied five goals in the series against the Senators, who lost a Game 7 for the fourth time.

 Beating a well-rested Philadelphia team, which has home- ice advantage for the second year in a row, will be no picnic. The Flyers thumped the Leafs in Game 7 last year, 6-1, and have improved.

 "I was told by many hockey people that maybe it was the best series (of last year's playoffs)," Quinn said. "We beat each other up badly enough that the Flyers couldn't advance the next round. We'll have to sustain the level we had (last night)."


Photos