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Flyers boost playoff hopes by blanking Leafs 2-0

by John Kreiser

The Philadelphia Flyers appear to have found their game just in time.

With a playoff berth slipping away after a slump that saw them lose seven of eight games, the Flyers got a 23-save performance by Brian Boucher on Tuesday night to beat Toronto 2-0 in the Leafs' last home game of the season.

The win, which followed Sunday's 4-3 victory over Detroit, gave the Flyers 86 points and lifted them into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, four ahead of the ninth-place New York Rangers. The Flyers end their season with a home-and-home series against the Rangers, who play Toronto at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday before the Flyers come to town two nights later.

"They're all big right now and we can't afford to take our foot off the gas," Boucher said. "We've been guilty of doing that lately and we're paying for it now to try and scrape into the playoffs."

Meanwhile, the Leafs are preparing for another early spring. Despite improvement in the final few weeks of the season, they haven't made the playoffs since 2004.

"I would be frustrated if I would be them for sure," said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who made 21 saves. "You pay your ticket, (it's) very expensive and there's not much to show for it. I think people have to hopefully keep in mind the last little while here. Since March 3, we've been playing really well, I think there's a lot of hope in this dressing, a lot of good young guys with lots of talent.

"There's something to be enthusiastic about so hopefully we're not going to disappoint the fans next year."

Only 11 of the 20 players who dressed on opening night were in the lineup for Tuesday's home finale.

"We're a different team (now)," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "Whatever people want to say about our team, you can't compare the first half or the first two-thirds with the last third because it's an entirely different team.

"This team has an attitude when they go out, a little bit more of a swagger."

There wasn't a whole lot of swagger against the Flyers, who got a first-period power-play goal from Claude Giroux and an empty-netter by Mike Richards.

That was more than enough support for Boucher, who earned the 17th shutout and 100th win of his career. His best stop came late in the third period, when he dove across the crease to keep a rolling puck out of the net.

"It's nice to see him play well and nice to see him get his 100th, especially in this big a game," defenseman Chris Pronger said after Boucher ended a 50-game shutout drought.

Giroux gave the Flyers the lead at 10:59 of the first period, just six seconds after Mikhail Grabovski was sent off for roughing. He raced down the slot, took a nice pass from Danny Briere and dunked it past Giguere for his 16th goal of the season.

The Flyers preserved the lead by killing off all six of Toronto's power plays, extending the Leafs' drought to 0-for-30.

Material from wire services was used in this report

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