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Slow Start Stops Leafs In Philly

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
January 16, 2004
Scoring | Stats

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were waiting for this game. The Philadelphia Flyers were waiting for their captain.

Keith Primeau scored an early goal in his return to Philadelphia's lineup, leading the Flyers to a 4-1 victory Friday night.

Primeau, out since breaking his thumb in the team's last win Jan. 2, helped the Flyers snap a season-worst six-game winless streak (0-4-1-1).

"The big thing for us was Primeau comes in and calms the whole thing down," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He calms it down in the dressing room, calms it down with his presence. He got us focused."

Patrick Sharp, Tony Amonte and John LeClair also scored for Philadelphia, which moved within a point of Toronto for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Joe Nieuwendyk had the only goal for the Maple Leafs, who have lost three of four.

Primeau made an immediate impact, deflecting a wrist shot from Chris Therien that slid along the ice under Ed Belfour's glove for the game's first goal at 3:25 of the first period.

"I didn't address the team as a whole," Primeau said. "I came back and did the things I do to prepare. It's as much preparing myself as it is preparing the other guys."

Belfour could not control a rebound 2:35 later that Sharp rammed in for his first career goal. Amonte made it 3-0 with 8:45 left in the opening period, knocking Belfour out.

Trevor Kidd relieved him and stopped 16 of 17 shots.

"I don't think we responded well in a couple of pressure situations," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "There were three games this year that we all considered big games and we thought we would be a team ready to play and we didn't respond."

In their win Nov. 10 in Toronto, the Flyers scored seven goals on 22 shots against Belfour.

Earlier this week, several Toronto players said they had been anticipating a rematch with Philadelphia because of the embarrassing, early-season defeat. The Flyers also eliminated the Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round of last year's playoffs.

But Toronto came out flat, allowing 16 shots in the first period Friday night. The Maple Leafs got their lone goal when Nieuwendyk chipped a loose puck past Robert Esche early in the second period.

"We stunk it up tonight," said Toronto defenceman Bryan McCabe, one of the Maple Leafs who publicly anticipated the home-and-home series. "But the best part is that we get back at them tomorrow."

Esche had 21 saves for his first win in his last five games.

"When you play Toronto, you don't expect an early lead," Esche said. "They're a dynamic team. It was just one of those nights for them."

Game Notes
Flyers C Jeremy Roenick sat out after being suspended one game by the league for throwing a water bottle at an official in Tuesday's loss at Buffalo. ... The teams meet Saturday in Toronto for the second game in the home-and-home series. ... Flyers D Dennis Seidenberg underwent successful surgery on his broken left leg and is out indefinitely. Seidenberg was injured during Thursday's practice and was originally expected to be out 10-to-12 weeks. ... Flyers C Michal Handzus played his 400th NHL game.

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