Bryan McCabe's power-play goal 2:18 into overtime provided a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night and kept them a point behind Montreal, a 2-0 winner over Boston, in the battle for the eighth and last qualifying spot. "We still control our own fate," said McCabe. "That's all you want.
"You don't want to be hoping for someone else to help you out. We'll put this one behind us and get ready for Thursday."
The New York Islanders' shootout win over the Rangers kept them in longshot contention three points behind Toronto, with a game in hand, so the Leafs will be skating into a hornet's nest. They can't afford to be stung.
The Leafs will need a win to ensure they go into their last game, at home Saturday against the Canadiens, retaining a chance to make it, and they'll have to pull up their socks to get it.
"We know we're going to have to play better against the Islanders and Montreal to get a playoff spot," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin.
The Flyers are last in the league and were missing four injured regulars, but the Leafs nearly blew it.
"Our season was on the line," said Sundin. "It was a battle out there.
"We obviously didn't have our best game. Sometimes there's nerves and guys are putting a little too much pressure on themselves. It's always tough - a lot of pressure for our team, none on their team. They come in with a lot of young guys eager to play. "But, even though we didn't play a great hockey game, we showed a lot of character and we got the two points. It would have been easy for us to panic but we stuck to our guns and battled it out."
Ian White and Hal Gill also scored for the Leafs, who won their eighth straight home game in front of an Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,547.
Andrew Raycroft's 37th goaltending win tied the franchise record by Ed Belfour in 2002-2003.
Ryan Potulny and Mike York scored for the Flyers, who got standout goaltending from Martin Biron.
When Jeff Carter was assessed a hooking penalty 1:15 into the sudden-death session, McCabe and Tomas Kaberle took their usual positions at the points. They passed the puck back and forth, back and forth, back and forth . . . until McCabe pulled the trigger.
It was McCabe who knocked down a puck with a gloved hand, sending it right to York, for Philadelphia's tying goal at 15:46 of the third period. McCabe was understandably relieved when he scored the winner.
"I felt we played really well defensively," he said. "We didn't give up much.
"They caught a lucky break on that second goal. I tried to bat it out of the air and it kinda landed between the guy's feet and he put it in. Tense times, but we pulled 'er out."
Toronto had a 33-25 shots advantage. Both teams had four power plays, and McCabe got the only power-play goal.
"Why make it easy on ourselves?" White said with a grin. "We like to do things the hard way, and we're going to get into the playoffs doing it that way."
The Flyers have been a better team since getting Biron near the February trade deadline. They sure gave the Leafs all they could handle.
"You don't want to be in a position at the end of the year where you have to play spoiler, but that's our role now," said York. "We weren't very happy between the second and the third and played a little bit better after that, but we couldn't get over the hump at the end."
Notes: Toronto was 1-for-4 and Philadelphia 0-for-4 on power plays . . . Burlington, Ont., nurse Julie Beattie, Waterloo-region doctors Bill Plaxton and Alex Baron, paramedic Daniel Ball and Elaine Parr, who combined to save the life of 73-year-old spectator John MacLean of Mississauga after he suffered a heart attack during the game Saturday, attended the game as guests of the Leafs. Darryl Sittler presented each with an autographed Leafs sweater during a stoppage in play in the first period . . . Matt Stajan bled from the nose after being banged by Ben Eager's shoulder. Eager kept his elbow down, which was why there was no penalty . . . With Carlo Colaiacovo out with a leg injury, Andy Wozniewski was inserted on defence . . . Jeff O'Neill was a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game . . . Sundin hasn't scored in 10 games and remains a goal back of Sittler's club-record 389 . . . Alex Steen hasn't scored in 12 games since a March 8 goal . . . Potulny, a 22-year-old American called up from the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms, was the leading goal scorer in U.S. college hockey with Minnesota last winter.