TORONTO (AP)—Like most captains, Mats Sundin attempted to deflect the attention to his teammates.
“He’s definitely one of the best players I’ve ever played with and he shows up for big games every time,” Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour said.
“He’s huge for us all the time,” Bryan McCabe said. “He was our leader tonight and everyone else followed.”
Sundin scored twice, and had a chance to add a few more, in helping Toronto win its second straight to even the best-of-seven, second-round playoff series with Game 5 at Philadelphia on Sunday.
Not bad for someone who was playing only his third game after missing four with a leg injury.
“It felt good,” Sundin said. “There’s nothing that bothers me with my skating so for sure, a lot better.”
That was particularly evident on Sundin’s second goal, capping a great individual effort to give Toronto a 2-1 lead 7:45 into the second period.
Carrying the puck up the right side, Sundin cut to the middle catching Flyers defender Vladimir Malakhov flat-footed. Kicking the puck to his stick, Sundin then threaded a back-hander, beating Robert Esche through the legs.
Belfour stopped 28 shots to record his 88th career playoff victory, moving him into a tie for third place with former New York Islanders great Billy Smith.
The Leafs have won five straight at home, the first time they’ve done that in one postseason since winning five in a row in 1976.
Simon Gagne scored for Philadelphia, which continues to look flat after a 4-1 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday, and playing nothing like the team that opened the postseason by winning six of its first seven.
“They’re getting production from key people,” Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. “If we’re going to win the series we’re going to have to get the same production from our key people.”
Mark Recchi, who led the Flyers with 75 points in the regular season, took responsibility for the team’s lack of offensive production.
“You can’t come into another team’s building and score two goals,” Recchi said. “That’s part of my responsibility. I take a lot of the heat for that. I know I’ve got to be a lot better offensively.”
Gagne’s goal, which opened the scoring 8 minutes in, came on a gift after McCabe muffed a pass attempt in front of his own net.
The bounces went Toronto’s way when Sundin tied it 10 minutes later, his shot deflecting in off the leg of Flyers defender Marcus Ragnarsson.
The game’s momentum shifted midway through the first period after the Flyers had outshot the Leafs 10-5. Toronto rallied and was outshooting Philadelphia 21-13 when Sundin scored his second goal.
“They had the momentum for sure in the first 10 minutes or so,” Sundin said. “Even though they got the lead, I thought we battled hard. It was a great team effort.”
It was Sundin’s first two-goal playoff game since he scored twice against New Jersey in the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals. It was also Sundin’s 68th playoff point, moving him into second place—one ahead of Dave Keon—among Toronto playoff scorers.
And Sundin had a chance for a third goal, hitting the crossbar on a breakaway with 20 seconds left in the second.
“Sometimes you have too much time to think,” Sundin said, shaking his head. “I wish I had that one back.”
Tucker put the game away, deflecting in McCabe’s shot from the point for a power-play goal 2 minutes into the third.
Toronto’s offense is suddenly capitalizing on its chances, having scored seven goals in its last two games, after managing just 16 in their first nineplayoff outings.
Flyers assistant coach Craig Hartsburg escorted a Toronto radio personality out of a doughnut shop Friday after the unidentified person confronted coach Ken Hitchcock, Flyers spokesman Zack Hill said. … Flyers D Kim Johnsson returned after missing the first three games of the series with a broken bone in his right hand. … Leafs C Joe Nieuwendyk missed his third straight game with what is believed to be a back problem. Nieuwendyk haspracticed for the last three days and is hopeful to play in Game 5.