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Maple Leafs 3, Hurricanes 2 @NHLdotcom

TORONTO (AP) - The Toronto Maple Leafs earned a much-needed victory just before they travel to Montreal for their two most important games of the season.

Jason Allison scored a power-play goal with 4:48 left, and the Maple Leafs picked up ground in their playoff hunt with a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

Alex Steen and Alexander Khavanov also scored for the Maple Leafs, who are four points behind Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta passed Montreal in the standings with a shootout win over Boston on Tuesday night. Toronto moved within three points of Montreal for ninth place. The Canadiens lost to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

The Maple Leafs will play in Montreal on Thursday and Saturday nights.

"We have to climb over two to get to that spot," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "Montreal is looking to regain their spot in the next games. They are playoff games. We have to approach it that way."

Quinn said the atmosphere in Montreal should be fantastic.

"The games between these two franchises always take on something beyond the game," Quinn said. "I expect it to be a rip-roaring building Thursday and Saturday."

Toronto blew a 2-0 advantage in the third period, but Allison gave Toronto the lead for good with a shot from the faceoff circle after a rebound.

"Hopefully, we can go into Montreal and play as well as we have," Allison said.

The Leafs appears to have broken out of their two-month slump that dropped them from sixth to 10th in the East.

"Maybe it's desperation. I think we've simplified things a little and I think we've played with a little more confidence, too," Allison said. "We're taking the play to teams. It seemed like we were timid before."

Mikael Tellqvist made 33 saves in his sixth straight start in place of Ed Belfour, who is out indefinitely with a sore back.

Tellqvist was steady in the first two periods, but allowed a weak goal in the third as he knocked the puck in with his own skate after failing to get a grip on it with his glove after a shot by Mike Commodore.

The Maple Leafs are getting an extended look at Tellqvist, who could become their No. 1 goalie next season if Toronto buys out the last year of Belfour's contract.

"We're fighting for a playoff spot and you can really see how much the guys want it," Tellqvist said. "Even though we allowed two bad goals, two bad breaks, however you want to put it, we still battled back and got another goal. It was real big for us."

Eric Staal scored his 42nd goal for the Hurricanes, who have lost five of seven and are in the midst of playing nine of 10 games away from home. Carolina will play in Buffalo on Wednesday night before returning home for three games.

"It will be nice to get back home," Staal said. "We want first overall in our conference and first overall. We're going to try win every game from here on out. It's too bad we didn't get one tonight."

Steen scored a power-play goal at 7:04 of the first with a backhanded shot from in front after a rebound.

Toronto's Kyle Wellwood then screened Carolina goalie Martin Gerber during a power play when Khavanov scored with a slap shot from the point.

Commodore cut it to 2-1 at 3:45 of the third, and Staal tied it just over 3 minutes later by pushing the puck beyond the goal line after Tellqvist couldn't contain a shot from the point on the power play.

The Hurricanes pulled Gerber for an extra attacker in the final minute, but couldn't score the tying goal.

Notes: Toronto enforcer Tie Domi was a healthy scratch for second time this month. Domi went public with his displeasure the last time he was benched in a road game against the New York Islanders. ... Carolina forward Mark Recchi hasn't recorded a point in six games since being acquired by Pittsburgh.

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