Flyers eliminate Leafs with 3-2 OT win
TORONTO (CP) - The six pucks the Toronto Maple Leafs saved from their
playoff wins this spring looked lonely sitting on the ledge above the
inside of the dressing room door late Tuesday night.
The quest for 16 pucks - the number of wins needed to win the Stanley
Cup - had fallen way short.
``The season is over for us,'' said captain Mats Sundin. ``There's
not much to say.
``Anytime you're eliminated from the playoffs, it's very
disappointing. I definitely felt we had a good enough team to go on
to the next round but we fell short.''
Jeremy Roenick's second goal of the game 7:39 into overtime gave
Philadelphia a 3-2 victory in Game 6 of the second-round series,
sending the Flyers on to the NHL's Eastern Conference final against
the Tampa Bay Lightning.
``It's a pretty sickening feeling,'' defenceman Brian Leetch said of
the Leafs' demise.
Philadelphia took Toronto out in seven games in the first round last
year. Dominating games on their home ice set them up for the series-
clinching win this time.
``It was a big effort by our club and a huge stepping stone for the
players, the organization and the city of Philadelphia,'' said
captain Keith Primeau. ``We're ecstatic.''
It was Primeau who cranked it up for the Flyers in Game 5, and it was
J.R. who took it to another level in Game 6.
First-period goals by Roenick and Radovan Somik gave Philadelphia a
lead that stood up until Karel Pilar slapped a long shot to score at
9:04 of the third period. Sundin fired in a rebound to tie it at
15:08, and the 19,600 Air Canada Centre spectators roared their
approval of what they imagined would be a memorable come-from-behind
Leafs victory to prolong the series. It was not to be.
Flyers goalie Robert Esche made a game-saving stop while on his knees
of a Tie Domi shot with 69 seconds left in regulation time.
``We had them on the ropes in the third but just couldn't get it
done,'' said defenceman Bryan McCabe.
Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock lauded the work of Esche.
``He was outstanding,'' said Hitchcock. ``When it went to 2-2, he
came up with four unbelievable saves and then there was a save in
overtime that was unbelievable.''
The Flyers were the ones who broke loose for the winning goal -
thanks to a bad line change by the Leafs. Roenick went in on a 2-on-1
break and lifted puck up and under the crossbar behind goalie Ed
``The guys worked hard to come back,'' said Belfour. ``It's too bad.''
Roenick was ecstatic.
``To come out in overtime and beat a team like the Toronto Maple
Leafs, to me it's like I'm dreaming,'' he said. ``They're such a
great hockey team, they have so much character and so much grit, and
to beat a team like that is a huge achievement.''
The game ended a minute after Toronto forward Darcy Tucker slammed
Sami Kapanen into the side boards. Play continued without a whistle
even though Kapanen had difficulty getting up and staggered to his
``It was a deliberate attempt to hurt him,'' said Hitchcock, who was
Tucker's junior coach in Kamloops, B.C. ``I'm disappointed with
While the Flyers go to their first conference final in four years,
Toronto management will try to figure out why such a high-salaried
roster again wasn't good enough.
``I guess you have hopes and dreams,'' said coach Pat Quinn. ``I kind
of envisioned this team as being one that had a little destiny to it.
``I was convinced right through this series. I was convinced we were
going to find a way or make a way to advance. And even after our (7-
2) drubbing the other night, I was still convinced we were going to
do that so, when you have those sorts of hopes and dreams, like your
fans do, it does seem to be devastating right now.''
Said centre Joe Nieuwendyk: ``We battled back hard to give ourselves
a chance but when you get into overtime like that anything can
happen. Sometimes when you're all over another team like that you
The bad line change took care of that.
``I kind of got caught looking on the change instead of watching for
who was behind me,'' said Leetch.
It was the late-season acquisition of the former New York Rangers
star that gave the Leafs the confidence they could go all the way.
``It's an empty feeling right now but it's been a lot of fun coming
here,'' he said. ``We're like a lot of teams - close.
``Unfortunately, even though we feel we were good enough, we're left
out in the end.''
Said Alexander Mogilny: ``Physically and emotionally, the guys gave
everything they had. But in some areas, we could have played better.''
Toronto outshot Philadelphia 36-25 including 11-3 in the third
period. But the Flyers had a 7-3 edge in overtime.<
``You wonder what could have been but you have to give Philadelphia
credit,'' said Sundin. ``They were able to put the puck in the net
when they needed to.''
``We didn't play consistent enough,'' said Gary Roberts. ``We played
well at times but not often enough to win the series.''
Contrary to some reports that suggested Roberts was playing hurt, he
said he was ``100 per cent healthy.''
Belfour and Nieuwendyk are among veterans who can become an
unrestricted free agents July 1. Both would like to return to the
``I hope that things work out,'' said Belfour.
Said Leetch: ``It's important to have Eddie back and you build from
But a lot of faces will change before the next Leafs game. It might
have been the last hurrah for this group.
``I hope not,'' said Sundin.
Notes: On power plays, Toronto was 0-3 in the game and 2-27 in the
series, while Philadelphia was 0-2 in the game and 3-23 in the
series . . . Pilar appeared in his first NHL game in nearly seven
weeks, replacing Ken Klee who suffered a knee injury Sunday . . . The
Leafs reinserted C Robert Reichel and RW Tom Fitzgerald, scratching
Ron Francis and Clarke Wilm to make room . . . The Flyers used Dennis
Seidenberg in place of Vladimir Malakhov (shoulder) on defence . . .
Toronto was 5-2 at home and 1-5 on the road in the playoffs. A team
with that kind of road record can't possibly win it all.