As the 40th-anniversary season winds down for the soon-to-be-eliminated Flyers, a number of the teams they will face in the final six weeks are frantically trying to secure a playoff berth in the bunched-up Eastern Conference.
That explains why the Toronto Maple Leafs played with a sense of urgency tonight en route to a 5-2 victory at the Wachovia Center, while the Flyers appeared to be going through the motions.
Toronto came to town seeded 10th with 67 points. The Leafs are trying to catch eighth-seeded Carolina (69 points) and seventh-seeded Montreal (70).
So, when Mats Sundin and his teammates faced the worst team in the league - the Flyers - their drive to pick up two points - and perhaps catch the Hurricanes in the process - was powerful.
Apparently, it was more powerful than the Flyers' sense to deny a bitter playoff rival those points, given how poorly the Flyers played the first 40 minutes.
True, they showed some vigor in the final period, trailing 3-1. But when yet another Flyers power play went quietly into the darkness, Sundin put the game out of reach with his 26th goal at 8 minutes, 41 seconds.
Twice in this game, Flyers goalie Michael Leighton made an initial save only to lose the rebound in front. This time, he got his pad on Andy Wozniewski's attempt, only to have the Sundin, the Leafs' captain, lift home the rebound.
The first period was another lackluster one by the Flyers. Like the Leafs, they had seven shots, but none were of quality.
Toronto scored at 11:16 on a delayed penalty on Derian Hatcher. Jeff O'Neill gave Matt Stajan a nice outlet pass up the boards, and Stajan centered the puck across the high slot for Steen's slightly exaggerated slapper high into the net.
The Flyers got a chance to get it back with a power play a minute later. But, as often happens when they have the man advantage, the Flyers gave up a scoring chance. Toronto had a good shorthanded rush with Travis Green and Ian White.
Coach John Stevens mixed up his lines again, and the top line of Geoff Sanderson centering Simon Gagne and Stefan Ruzicka wasn't anything to get excited about. Not that the lines behind them were much better.
Eight minutes into the second period, the Flyers had just one shot. That's how little offense they were generating.
O'Neill's 20th goal of the season made it 2-0 at 12:57. Leighton made a chest stop on Alex Steen from a distance, but the rebound went onto O'Neill's stick for an easy follow-up.
A mishap by Randy Jones - he fell - allowed Chad Kilger to drive to the net at 18:00 and tuck a puck under Leighton's right pad, making it 3-0.
That should have done it, but Sami Kapanen got a goal back 46 seconds later when his slap shot ripped off the bottom of Andrew Raycroft's glove hand into the net.
Loose pucks. The Flyers tonight traded defenseman Alexei Zhitnik to the Atlanta Thrashers for defenseman Braydon Coburn. Through Friday, Coburn had four assists in 29 games. . . . Dallas claimed Flyers defenseman Nolan Baumgartner off waivers. That plays into Derian Hatcher's favor because the Stars were among the teams looking to trade for him earlier this month. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said it didn't appear as though Hatcher would be moved because of his $3.5 million salary the next two years. . . . The Flyers' salary cap is $42.4 million. . . . Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi said tonight that he gave defenseman Rob Blake the option to be traded, but Blake is staying. "I met with Rob yesterday and today, and I asked him what he wanted to do," Lombardi said on his cell phone. "He told me he wants to stay."