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Leafs' offence comes to life, pours it on

The Philadelphia Flyers rolled into town last night in what was billed as Fight Night in Toronto, but as it turned out, the gloves stayed on and it was the Maple Leafs' often incognito finesse that carried the day.

The Leafs went into the game with just 31 goals in their past 15 games, but only needed one in their 4-0 win as they head out on a five-game road swing beginning in Washington tonight.

Leading the way was coach Ron Wilson's recently crafted top line, with rookie Tyler Bozak opening the scoring on a pretty deke and linemates Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin connecting late in the middle frame for an insurance marker.

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The promised fireworks, however, never emerged - other than a brief third-period dog pile with the game already well in hand. The Flyers had handed Toronto a 6-2 beating in Philadelphia a week earlier that included some showboating antics from pest Danny Carcillo, but little came of talk of taking it to him before the game.

"When people call for that to happen, it never happens," Wilson said before the game.

Leafs pugilist Jay Rosehill, recalled Wednesday to add some muscle in the lineup, almost made an immediate impact on the scoreboard on his first shift of the game, however, leaping over Flyers netminder Michael Leighton and knocking the puck into the net about a minute into play.

Problem was that Rosehill used his glove to do the knocking, and after a brief review, the goal was disallowed.

After some tepid play from both teams over the next period and a half, Bozak brought the Air Canada Centre faithful out of their seats midway through the second, slipping the puck between the legs of Flyers defencemen Ole-Kristian Tollefsen in a highlight-reel play he capped off by snapping his first NHL goal over Leighton's glove side.

Toronto's top line struck again with 40 seconds left in the second period.

Kessel broke in on a 2-on-1 with Kulemin, faked a shot and dished off to Kulemin, who netted his ninth goal of the season into an empty Flyers goal.

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Bozak, meanwhile, was later credited with an assist on the Leafs' second goal, giving him four points in his first four NHL games.

Defenceman Luke Schenn added to Toronto's lead with his second of the season in the third period, wiring a long shot past Leighton. Lee Stempniak then capped the game's scoring with his 13th of the season with less than two minutes to play.

Down in the dumps just before Christmas, the Flyers had caught fire lately with an 8-1-1 record in their past 10 games entering last night's tilt. On Dec. 21, just before going on that run, Philadelphia was trailing the Leafs by two points - albeit with two games in hand.

Their streak, in part, was because of the hot play of Leighton, who was claimed on waivers in mid-December after No. 1 Ray Emery went down with an abdominal injury. The 28-year-old journeyman has started 11 successive games and won eight of them.

Leighton's play had even drawn some chatter around Toronto as to why the Leafs didn't put in a claim for him a month ago, a move that would have provided relief for the rookie Jonas Gustavsson while allowing Vesa Toskala to go on a hunt for his game in the minors. Now finally healthy for a prolonged stretch, Gustavsson has taken over the No. 1 role the past few weeks, starting nine of Toronto's past 12 games before last night.

Toskala, meanwhile, had his save percentage slump all the way to just .871 - dead last among regular netminders this season after finishing as a bottom feeder in the category last year.

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The struggling Finn, however, outduelled Leighton in this one, playing his best game of the season in making 38 saves for only his second win since Dec. 14.

Even after snapping a four-game losing streak, however, the Leafs remain well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race and will need to go on a streak the rest of the season to pull back into the picture.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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