Leafs: Nice and easy

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Jeff O'Neill turned back the clock on '80s Night at the Wachovia Center.

The Maple Leafs forward, who had a four-season run of 25 goals or more come to a halt four years ago, scored his 20th last night as the visitors secured an easy 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

When the mostly bad music was not blaring during play stoppages and the centre-ice scoreboard wasn't displaying Flyers statistics from the 1980s, the line of O'Neill, Matt Stajan and Alex Steen carried the Leafs to just their third triumph in eight games. O'Neill and Steen each had a goal and an assist while Stajan, who won an impressive 14 of 18 faceoffs, had an assist.

"When we are on, we are a good line," O'Neill said. "We have been struggling a little bit, but the past couple of games we have shown some signs of life and if we are going to make the playoffs, our line has to be productive.

"Twenty goals in the NHL, I have done it a few times, but it is not what is expected of me. I think 30-35 is expected of me and I am going to try to do that."

Despite winning, the Leafs did not move in the tight Eastern Conference standings. Toronto has 69 points and is in 10th, a point back of both the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders. So, yes, the final match of the Leafs' three-game trip tomorrow night in Montreal is large.

"It will be a fun game," Steen said. "It's exciting. It's like we have been playing playoff games for 10, 15 games now. We can't underestimate (the Canadiens). They have not been playing as well, but we know what they are capable of."

Chad Kilger, Mats Sundin and John Pohl also scored for the Leafs. Sundin now has 387 goals in a Toronto uniform, two off the franchise mark of 389 held by Darryl Sittler.

Andrew Raycroft was not overly busy in his 23rd consecutive start, making 22 saves. But he was sharp and came up with big stops on Stefan Ruzicka, Simon Gagne and Alexei Zhitnik.

With 28 victories, Raycroft is one off the 29 he had in 2003-04 when he won the Calder Trophy with the Boston Bruins.

Bryan McCabe had three assists for the Leafs while fellow defenceman Andy Wozniewski played in his first game since Oct. 7 and was strong, finishing with 13 minutes, 37 seconds of ice time and an assist.

Gagne and Sami Kapanen scored for the Flyers before a crowd of 19,277. Immediately after the match, Zhitnik, who had an assist, was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for 21-year-old defenceman Braydon Coburn as the Flyers continue to rebuild.

Even though the Flyers have 20 games remaining, they appear happy to play out the string. When the Leafs recorded a 4-2 win in the same building nine nights earlier, the Flyers were listless and stunned because their captain, Peter Forsberg, had been traded minutes before the game started. The home side did not have that excuse last night, but nonetheless did not put up much of a battle.

Leafs coach Paul Maurice was pleased with the performance of the Steen-Stajan-O'Neill trio as a whole, but was especially glad to see O'Neill crack the 20-goal barrier again. In four seasons for Maurice with the Carolina Hurricanes, O'Neill, in order, had 25, 41, 31 and 30 goals.

"I don't think he has had an easy run (with the death of his brother) and I know the rehab we put him through (after shoulder woes) was not easy either, and he stuck with it," Maurice said. "He is an interesting player because when he gets a little bit of that confidence, he can get hot, and we need him to."

---

REPORT CARD

B Forwards: The offensive production was spread around, which the Leafs will have to keep doing in the final six weeks of the schedule.

BDefence: The Flyers were not able to generate many quality scoring chances, not that should have, considering how bad they are.

B+ Goaltending: Raycroft continues to get the job done and has claimed he is not tired. He is backing that up with some fine performances.


Videos

Photos