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MAURICE


by Matthew Iaboni

November 6, 2006

(TORONTO) -- Coming off a big 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, head coach Paul Maurice was worried how is team would come out of the gate Monday against the struggling Philadelphia Flyers.

His worries were quickly put to rest as the Leafs shot out of blocks and were rewarded early in the first when Bates Battaglia roofed his fourth of the season.
Alexei Ponikarovsky added an insurance marker in the third.
(Graig Abel Photography)


While the first period was dominated by the Leafs, the second frame was all Flyers. They outshot the Leafs 17-3 and were rewarded with the equalizer.

"We dominated the first, they took it to us in the second and the third was wide open," Maurice said.

Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki made several brilliant saves to keep the Flyers in the game. Nik Antropov had two glorious chances in the first but he was stopped both times.

Maurice made a brilliant coaching decision in the third as he moved Antropov onto the first powerplay unit with Mats Sundin and Alexei Ponikarovsky. The moved paid off with Antropov getting the winner.

"Wherever he puts me I want to give 100 percent effort," Antropov said. "Paul told me to stand beside the post and pick up the garbage and that's what I did."

Maurice didn't want to take to much credit for the move.

"Those three guys have chemistry and there wasn't a lot of fanciness in their game but a lot of it has to do with how the other team is playing and who they have out on Mats."

Antropov's ice time has increased since coming back from injury and he is very happy having Maurice behind the bench.

"It's nice when coach believes in you," Antropov said. "In the past years I would get down on myself and today I would just go back to the bench and not worry."

The Leafs would add two more in the third as they downed the Flyers 4-1.

Andrew Raycroft who earlier in the day was named as NHL second star of the week again played a solid game in the pipes. He is now 4-0-0 in his last four starts.

In the second he made several big saves with his team shorthanded to keep the score level. His strong outing continued in the third as he made 17 more stops in the third.

"Our guys killed some big penalties in the second," Raycroft said. "It's fun to get a lot of shots when you play well. I got lucky and there was a lot of scrambling but the penalty killers did a good job of grabbing sticks and clearing the puck."

His coach had nothing but praise for this netminder who played his best game as a Maple Leaf.

"He was the difference in the game," Maurice said. "We let him be the difference after the first and that usually happens after coming back after a good physical road trip."

After Monday's win, the Leafs are now off until Thursday when they travel to Boston to face the Bruins. Maurice thinks that it will be a good test for Raycroft.

"He's still young. He's our number one goalie and he needs to play in those games with pressure on him."

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