Hey guys, it's time!

Leafs vs. Habs - showdown. (Alex Urosevic/Sun)

Leafs vs. Habs - showdown. (Alex Urosevic/Sun)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:48 PM ET

Paul Maurice stopped short of calling out Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft yesterday.

So, let's do it for him.

In the most highly anticipated regular-season National Hockey League game in Toronto in recent memory, the Maple Leafs have one shot to keep their playoff hopes alive when they take on the rival Montreal Canadiens tonight.

Three periods. Sixty minutes. That's it.

Win tonight within that time frame -- an overtime or shootout victory won't cut it -- and it won't matter much that Sundin has scored just once in the past 20 games.

Or, that Tucker has lit the red light in just one of his past 12 outings, netting a pair of goals against the Buffalo Sabres on March 24.

Or, that Raycroft is an ordinary 9-9 in his past 18 starts.

Those numbers no longer will be relevant. Only the ones on the Air Canada Centre scoreboard will be.

In order to achieve their dream of reaching the playoffs, the Leafs must beat the Canadiens in regulation and hope the New York Islanders lose one of their two remaining games, either against the Philadelphia Flyers today or the New Jersey Devils tomorrow afternoon.

As captain, Sundin is the Leafs' inspirational poster boy and the team's most talented player. Tucker is the heart and soul. And Raycroft is the final line of defence.

"Those three cannot win the game alone," Maurice said. "But those three have to lead the team, along with some of our other better players."

In other words, Tomas Kaberle must add some offensive punch and Bryan McCabe can't be a minus-5, as he was in New York against the Rangers six days ago.

As for Sundin, he has averaged almost a point-per-game during his goal-scoring slump.

But critics say he needs to score to be effective and wonder if his recent goal drought should alter management's plan to re-sign him this summer.

"It's fun to play in these Game 7-type atmospheres," Sundin said. "We can't worry what happened in the past. We just have to make the most of the situation."

The Islanders-Flyers game is a 1 o'clock start this afternoon, so the Leafs will know the result when they face off against the Canadiens shortly after 7 p.m.

"We have to take care of our own business and not be concerned about anyone else," Tucker said.

"We have a lot of difference-makers in this room and we're confident in them. It doesn't matter who scores. The win is the most important thing."

Raycroft has been a scapegoat of the home fans on a handful of occasions, despite tying Ed Belfour's franchise record of 37 wins by a goalie in a single season.

If he can guide his squad to a triumph, the jeers will turn to cheers.

"Everyone wants to get in there and have the chance to play their best game," Raycroft said.

A loss means a second-consecutive non-playoff season, opening the door to all kinds of scrutiny.

Will the Leafs fire general manager John Ferguson or open talks for an extension? Will Sundin be back? How about Jeff O'Neill and Michael Peca?

A win tonight, coupled with an Islanders loss today or tomorrow, will put those issues on the back burner.

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SWEET HOME?

The Maple Leafs have held a decided edge over the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre, going 15-5-1 on home ice against the Habs since the building first opened in 1999. This season has been no different. The Habs have scored just four goals in regulation time in their three visits toToronto, going 1-2 in the process.

- Oct. 7, 2006

Canadiens 3, Leafs 2 SO

Michael Ryder nets winner in shootout.

- Nov. 11, 2006

Leafs 5, Canadiens 1

Bryan McCabe leads Toronto's 42-shot attack with a pair of goals.

- Jan. 27, 2007

Leafs 4, Habs 1

Pavel Kubina scores twice as Andrew Raycroft outduels Cristobal Huet.


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