Leafs hit and run

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:10 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Paul Maurice had little interest in getting bogged down in the details last night.

"It was a game we had to win. We won on the road, there are no style points and that's fine," the Maple Leafs coach said following a 4-2 victory over a dumbfounded group of Philadelphia Flyers. "All the pressure was on us and we responded."

But Maurice conceded, in his words, that it was "a very strange game."

Minutes before the opening faceoff, and after Peter Forsberg participated in the pre-game warmup, the Flyers learned their captain was traded to the Nashville Predators. Toronto took full advantage of their dazed hosts and pumped three goals on 12 shots past goalie Michael Leighton, chasing him before the game was 15 minutes old.

As many of the Leafs' fathers watched from a private box, the Flyers gradually gave the Leafs something to work for, but the three goals held up. The Flyers did not come to life until the third period, when they outshot the Leafs 16-3. But only Mike Knuble was able to beat Andrew Raycroft, who had another sharp night with 34 saves.

And there was no life in the small crowd, either. The Wachovia Center usually is packed and among the loudest buildings in the NHL, but it was approximately half-full, even though attendance was listed as 19,321.

"A big shock is an understatement," Knuble said of the Forsberg deal. "(Trade talk regarding Forsberg) had quieted down for a bit. To say it didn't affect us, it was pretty obvious the team was a bit rattled and understandably so."

The win was crucial for the Leafs, who improved to 17-10-3 on the road and won for the first time in four games. The Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders are tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference in points with 64 each, but the Canadiens have one more victory.

The Leafs are 4-0 in their past four regular-season visits to Philadelphia, not losing since January 2004, and are back here in eight days. The Flyers have just five home wins and 38 points overall, both low-water marks in the National Hockey League.

Jeff O'Neill, Nik Antropov, Carlo Colaiacovo and Mats Sundin scored for Toronto. Simon Gagne had the other Philly goal.

The Leafs got lucky late in the third, after Flyers coach John Stevens pulled Antero Niittymaki with less than three minutes remaining. Philadelphia kept the puck in the Toronto zone for much of that time and Gagne almost made it 4-3, but his shot from the slot hit the crossbar.

Raycroft made his 19th start in a row, tying the longest run for a Leafs goalie since 1990 that was held solely by Felix Potvin. Raycroft is expected to make it 20 tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre when the Edmonton Oilers visit.

Regarding the Leafs' fall in the final period, general manager John Ferguson had a gem.

"I think the dads jumped in there (and played)," he said jokingly. "It looked like it was take-your-father-to-work night."

One of the positives was the play of the line of O'Neill, Matt Stajan and Alex Steen. Stajan recently set a career-high for points and O'Neill's goal was his 19th, equalling his output of last season.

"I need a two- or three-week stretch here to get hot, and I can probably get 30 this year," O'Neill said. "It's what I am looking at, just to come through and help the team and have some timely goals."


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