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Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Boston Bruins 0 FINAL

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BOSTON (AP) _ Ed Belfour came to the right place for another shutout.

Boston was blanked for a team-record eighth time at home, and Belfour posted his eighth shutout of the season, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 3-0 victory Thursday night.

``I don't have an explanation for it,'' Boston coach Mike Sullivan said. ``We generate as many scoring chances at home as we do on the road.''

Toronto got goals from Joe Nieuwendyk and Ron Francis _ his first since being obtained from Carolina on March 9 _ in the first nine minutes of the second period and an empty-net goal from Nik Antropov with 1:43 left in the game.

Belfour made sure that was enough.

It's not as if he needs a road-ice advantage in stopping shots. His 73 career shutouts rank 10th in NHL history.

``I've played with him a long time and been through a few wars with him,'' said Nieuwendyk, Belfour's former teammate with Dallas. ``He will come through when it counts.''

It did Thursday when Toronto cut Boston's lead in the Northeast Division to one point, 97-96. The Bruins have five regular-season games left, while the Maple Leafs have four.

Belfour made 33 saves, the same amount he had in his last game, a 7-2 loss Tuesday night to Tampa Bay.

``A lot of teams might be affected by a 7-2 loss, but we responded,'' Nieuwendyk said.

Belfour faced few difficult shots by Boston, which was hurt by four penalties in the first period.

``We wanted to keep (the puck) near the net as much as possible but they collapsed really well,'' Boston's Joe Thornton said of Toronto's skaters. ``Eddie only got tested about five or six times.''

Francis, 41; Belfour, 38; and Nieuwendyk, 37; were the Maple Leafs' stars.

``Our veteran players shored up their game,'' Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. ``We were disciplined and did the simple things we hadn't been doing recently.''

The Maple Leafs came back from a 2-1 loss to Boston nine days earlier and are 4-2 in their last six games. The Bruins lost for just the second time in 10 games (7-2-1) and suffered their 10th shutout of the season. The previous team record for home shutouts was six in 1951-52.

Nieuwendyk scored his fifth goal in nine games and 19th of the season from just outside the crease on a rebound after goalie Andrew Raycroft stopped a shot by Antropov.

Francis connected at 8:40 on a soft 15-footer that fooled defenseman Sergei Gonchar and Raycroft, who were expecting a harder blast.

``He missed it, a changeup, a Tim Wakefield knuckleball,'' Raycroft said.

It was Francis' 11th goal of the season and his 137th point in 130 games against the Bruins.

``It wasn't a pretty goal and I don't know if it even hit the back of the net,'' Francis said.

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