The nasty boys
LeClair shines as Flyers down Leafs 5-2, even series at 2-2
Posted: Tuesday May 04, 1999 12:42 PM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- John LeClair didn't need accusations or ugliness to turn this series between Toronto and Philadelphia into a full-fledged playoff war. All he had to do was stand in front of Curtis Joseph -- and stay there.
The Flyers finally tamed Cujo, and LeClair broke out of his playoff rut with two goals Wednesday night as the Flyers breathed new drama into an already nasty series with a 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs.
Philadelphia also killed a crucial two-man advantage and scored on a power play generated by Tie Domi's full-Nelson takedown of Sandy McCarthy -- the two players involved in the racial conflict that has marred the series.
There are physical playoff series, and then there those in which teams clearly dislike each other. This is quickly turning into the latter.
"I think it's getting to the don't-like part," said LeClair, who equalled his playoff goals total from the previous eight games. "I don't think it's sunk to that level yet."
Oh, McCarthy thinks so. He is the Flyers forward who said Domi "dropped an N-bomb on me" in Game 3 Monday night.
"I know we dislike them," said McCarthy, a mixed-race player whose father is black. "I don't know if they dislike us. We're trying to take the body as hard as possible."
Philadelphia bombarded Joseph with 41 shots for the second straight game. This time, five of them went in, rescuing the Flyers from having to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. It's been done only 14 times in seven-game series since 1939.
"Had Joseph been normal," Flyers coach Roger Neilson said, "we might have won all four games."
The teams play Game 5 Friday in Toronto, and the Flyers' victory guaranteed a return trip to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Sunday.
The Flyers seemed determined to launch as many shots on Joseph as possible, peppering him from odd angles. The most important part of the plan was to have one or two forwards entrenched in front of the crease, thereby making sure Joseph couldn't stop what he couldn't see.
More often than not, it was LeClair. At times, no amount of leaning, beating or cross-checking could get him out of there.
"They've been able to get in, and we haven't been able to seal off the net," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "If we don't change that, we won't beat them."
Eric Desjardins and Craig Berube also scored for the Flyers. The crowd went wild when Berube's goal, the first of the game, was originally credited to McCarthy. Replays showed the puck deflecting off Berube's skate and between Joseph's pads.
In fact, McCarthy told the officials that he shouldn't get credit for the goal.
"I went and told them to go look at it right away," McCarthy said.
But the biggest star was LeClair, who became Mr. April at a time when the Flyers needed him most. His first goal was vintage LeClair, as he batted Steve Duchesne's shot out of the air and past Joseph to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead in the first period.
"That was a world-class tip he made there," Joseph said.
LeClair made it 4-2 with 2:03 left in the second, taking a pass from Daymond Langkow and flicking it past Joseph's glove.
LeClair, a 50-goal scorer in three of the last four seasons, had only two goals in his last eight playoff games -- including one in a first-round loss to Buffalo in five games last year. He equaled that total on Wednesday night and gave the Flyers reason to believe they have a chance to advance past the first round without Eric Lindros, who is out indefinitely following a collapsed lung.
The subplot of the night was what would happen between Domi and McCarthy. They did not cross paths until 2:30 had elapsed in the second period, when Domi dragged McCarthy down by his head and got a roughing penalty.
More important for the Flyers, they took advantage of the penalty with Eric Desjardins' power-play goal that gave them a 3-2 lead.
McCarthy gave the puck away to Domi, but recovered to check him in front of the Flyers' bench. Domi responded by grabbing McCarthy's head, and they went down in a sprawling heap.
Domi was called for roughing and skated dutifully to the penalty box, leading to Desjardins' goal 49 seconds into the power play.
"It was tough. I wanted to get up and punch him right back," McCarthy said. "But I didn't think it was the right time for it. He just grabbed me by the face. It was his fault. I didn't have anything to do with it.
"When we scored when Tie got that penalty, it was satisfying for me."
Maple Leafs officials quickly steered Domi onto a bus, and he didn't talk to reporters.
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