Beantown showdown of primary importance

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

The Maple Leafs' wild playoff chase is looking a lot like Hillary Clinton's up-and-down presidential fortunes.

And tonight's Massachusetts primary will go a long way to sustaining Leafs hopes in Pennsylvania next week. Toronto's margin of error is considered to be three losses in its remaining 14 games, but if they spend two of those tonight in Boston and Saturday at home against the Devils, then the upcoming home and home with the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers will be moot.

Coach Paul Maurice was trying to keep spirits up yesterday .

"Three hands were on Eli Manning late in the game and things turned out okay for those guys," he said of the New York Giants' Super Bowl upset of New England. "You can't say: 'Well, geez, we're behind by two going into the third period, the numbers say we're not coming back from this.' Yet we were able to do that last week a few times. We're all aware of (the math)."

Winger Jason Blake had a near-death experience in a playoff race last year with the Islanders.

Four points out with four games to go, they came from back of the pack to beat out Toronto and Montreal on the last day.

"We lost six out of nine I think and found ourselves outside looking in,'' Blake said. "But you just keep going."

Before last night, the Leafs were six points out, but had to pass four teams.

The Bruins were once on their radar, then won six straight.

"We're not in the driver's seat yet," said Milan Lucic, a beefy Boston rookie whose arrival this season could coincide with Boston's first post-lockout playoff berth. "We know we can't take any teams lightly."

The Leafs will have to get around the size issue of Bruins such as Zdeno Chara and Lucic as well as fluid NHL assist leader Marc Savard.

"They've gone to the Jersey-Montreal (trap) style," Maurice said.

"They're committed to that game and their goaltending has been spectacular."


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