TORONTO (AP) - The Toronto Maple Leafs keep beating the Atlanta Thrashers - and accusing them of going after their top players.
Alex Ponikarovsky, Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood and Bryan McCabe scored goals and the Maple Leafs beat the Thrashers for the seventh straight time, 4-1 on Tuesday night.
"They definitely have been taking their shots at us. Our star players have taken a few lumps against them," Wellwood said. "But we'll take the wins every time and not worry about that."
Toronto has outscored Atlanta 22-3 in four games this season.
In their first matchup on Oct. 14 Toronto beat Atlanta 9-1 in a game that featured 109 penalty minutes and two brawls. Toronto coach Pat Quinn accused the Thrashers of "cowardice" after that game and said Atlanta coach Bob Hartley "has a reputation of sending his guys out head hunting."
This game featured an assortment of punishing checks, including one by Atlanta's Greg De Vries that bloodied Toronto captain Mats Sundin. Toronto's Chad Kilger dropped his gloves in defense of Sundin.
McCabe briefly left the game in the first after Atlanta's Serge Aubin checked him into the boards. McCabe slammed his stick against the boards and took awhile to get up, but returned to the game after shortly thereafter after going to the dressing room.
Aubin received a major penalty for tripping from behind and a game misconduct.
Aubin said it wasn't a dirty hit.
"We don't change our game plan. Any time I get a chance to finish a body check I'm going to finish it," Aubin said. "I never had any intention of hurting McCabe. To see that he was back up 30 seconds after says it all."
Atlanta general manager Don Waddell guaranteed his team would make the playoffs after it ended a seven-game losing streak Saturday, but the Thrashers have dropped five points behind Toronto for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto goalie Ed Belfour looked sharp in making 33 saves. The 40-year-old Belfour has had a subpar season, but he had strong game Saturday in a victory over New Jersey and made several impressive saves against Atlanta.
Fans chanted "Eddie! Eddie!" after Belfour made a number of impressive stops in the second and third.
"I'm seeing the puck well," Belfour said.
Marian Hossa spoiled Belfour's shutout bid with a power-play goal 18 seconds into the third.
"He played unbelievable. For whatever reason we always have a tough time playing against Toronto," Hossa said. "Tonight we played the best game of the four ones we've played, but it still wasn't good enough."
The Maple Leafs have won just three of their last 13 games.
After an Atlanta turnover in Toronto's end, Ponikarovsky skated up the ice and scored on a breakaway with a backhand shot at 13:25 of the second - his third goal in the last two games. Tucker made it 2-0 on a power play after Jason Allison made a pass from behind the net.
McCabe made it 4-1 with his 18th goal of the season with 2:53 left.
Notes: Former Leafs captain Darryl Sittler received a standing ovation on the 30th anniversary of his NHL record 10-point game. He scored six goals and assisted on four during an 11-4 victory over Boston. ... Toronto's Jeff O'Neill was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. O'Neill is a former 40-goal scorer.