| Bryan McCabe sends Mark Recchi for a ride. |
Graig Abel Photography
TORONTO (CP) - After beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 Tuesday night for their 10th win in 11 games, the Philadelphia Flyers were liking their chances of going all the way this season.
"We believe we're just as good as anybody in the league,'' said right-winger Mark Recchi. "You stay healthy, get great goaltending, and really stick with it, and you have a chance.
"There's a lot of things that can happen in the next 30-something games but we like the way we're going. We've had a lot of one- and two-goal games. We know how to play in those, and that's playoff hockey.''
Michal Handzus scored for Philadelphia at 16:11 of the first period, and Alexander Mogilny tied it for Toronto 54 seconds into the third. Goaltenders Roman Cechmanek and Mikael Tellqvist were outstanding. Coach Ken Hitchcock's Atlantic Division leaders won it on goals by Jeremy Roenick at 9:48 and by Recchi at 10:10 of the third.
"We have a good thing going and it's a good feeling in the locker-room,'' Roenick said after Philadelphia lengthened its road winning streak to six games - the club's longest in opposition rinks in 18 years. "We're really playing strong defensively.
"At one point, we were 15 points behind Boston. We were behind a lot of people until we started really turning it on. When you win 10 of 11 games, you're going to catch a lot of teams. We feel good right now but we can't get complacent and feel satisfied. We have to have the attitude that we have to keep this going as long as we possibly can.''
The Flyers, 27-11-8-1, are 11 points ahead of Boston now. They also are within three points of Eastern Conference leader Ottawa.
Philadelphia has won its last four games after being tied with the opposition in the third period.
"We've played within our system,'' said Recchi. "Hitch has implemented something that's been very good for us.
"We all trust it and we all know what we have to do. We take away ice, take away the neutral zone, and create a lot of turnovers. It's definitely a skater's system. You can't be standing around. We're using four lines. We have to play this way.''
The Leafs, 25-18-4-1, had their longest home unbeaten streak in 30 years halted at 13 games. "All three of the (Flyers) goals were off turnovers and poor coverage,'' said coach Pat Quinn. "The hardest part in this business is when you beat yourself.''
Quinn was satisfied with the work of Tellqvist, making his first NHL start because No. 1 goalie Ed Belfour remained out with a sore back and backup Trevor Kidd has a groin injury. Quinn said he expected Belfour to start Friday when the Leafs play in Buffalo.
The Flyers should be even better when John LeClair returns. The big left-winger has been out since Dec. 4 shoulder surgery but he's talking about being back in action by the middle of February.
"It's great to know John is coming back,'' said Recchi. "He's quite a bit ahead of schedule. It'll be nice to have him back.''
Said Hitchcock: "He skates for the first time (Thursday) so it's going to be a huge boost for our hockey club.''
This was one of the best games in Air Canada Centre this season. The tempo was fast, the hitting was heavy, and only four penalties were assessed.
The Leafs grabbed the momentum when Mogilny scored with a shot that ricocheted past Cechmanek off the skate blade of Eric Desjardins.
"We were really coming on strong,'' said captain Mats Sundin.
Said Hitchcock: "We were too much on our heels trying to protect a 1-0 lead for too long. They started to come after us but it just seemed that when they scored it was a wakeup call for us. We really played well right after that. They're a very good puck-control team and we had to stay patient in our positioning.''
Tellqvist stopped Roenick on a breakaway early in the third, but a few minutes later Roenick beat him with a wrist shot from the circle to the left of the Swedish netminder after Toronto defenceman Tomas Kaberle coughed up the puck in his own zone.
Recchi pushed in a rebound 22 seconds later.
"We're not the flashiest team in the league but we play well as a group, and when you play well as a group sometimes teams in front of you crack,'' said Hitchcock. "We've been able to get some teams to crack lately.'' Notes:
Both teams were 0-for-2 on power plays . . . Philadelphia outshot Toronto 26-23 . . . Kim Johnsson (24:40) and Eric Weinrich (23:57) logged the most ice time for the Flyers. Tomas Kaberle (24:13) and Bryan McCabe (23:49) were on most for the Leafs . . . Toronto was 9-1-0-0 on Tuesdays before the loss . . . LW Gary Roberts, on the slow road back from off-season shoulder surgeries, is ready to participate in practices . . . D Jyrki Lumme (upper body, Jan. 17) missed his second in a row . . . F Tom Fitzgerald (ribs, Jan. 4) hopes to play in Buffalo.