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January 16, 2004 - Flyers take first of two against Leafs

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Flyers take first of two against Leafs

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Keith Primeau made a triumphant return to the Philadelphia Flyers' lineup Friday night.

Primeau, out since breaking his thumb in the team's last win Jan. 2, scored early to lead the Flyers to a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Primeau helped Philadelphia snap a season-worst six-game winless streak (0-4-1-1).

"The big thing for us was Primeau comes in and calms the whole thing down," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He calms it down in the dressing room, calms it down with his presence.

"He got us focused."

What's more, the Flyers got the win despite playing without centre Jeremy Roenick, who sat out after being suspended one game by the league for throwing a water bottle at an official in Tuesday's loss at Buffalo.

Patrick Sharp, Tony Amonte and John LeClair also scored for Philadelphia, which moved to within two points of Toronto for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Joe Nieuwendyk had the only lone goal for Toronto, which has lost three of four.

Primeau made an immediate impact, deflecting a wrist shot from Chris Therien under Ed Belfour's glove to open the scoring at 3:25 of the first period.

"I didn't address the team as a whole," Primeau said. "I came back and did the things I do to prepare.

"It's as much preparing myself as it is preparing the other guys."

Belfour could not control a rebound 2:35 later that Sharp converted for his first career goal. Amonte made it 3-0 with 8:45 left in the first, knocking Belfour out.

Trevor Kidd relieved him and stopped 16 of 17 shots.

"I don't think we responded well in a couple of pressure situations," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "There were three games this year that we all considered big games and we thought we would be a team ready to play and we didn't respond."

In their win Nov. 10 in Toronto, the Flyers scored seven goals on 22 shots against Belfour.

Earlier this week, several Toronto players said they had been anticipating a rematch with Philadelphia because of the embarrassing, early-season defeat. The Flyers also eliminated the Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round of last year's playoffs.

But Toronto came out flat, allowing 16 shots in the first. The Maple Leafs got their lone goal when Nieuwendyk chipped a loose puck past Robert Esche early in the second.

"We stunk it up tonight," said Toronto defenceman Bryan McCabe, one of the Maple Leafs who publicly anticipated the home-and-home series. "But the best part is that we get back at them (Saturday)."

Esche had 21 saves for his first win in his last five games. 

"When you play Toronto, you don't expect an early lead," Esche said. "They're a dynamic team.

"It was just one of those nights for them."

Notes: Flyers defenceman Dennis Seidenberg underwent surgery on his broken left leg and is out indefinitely. Seidenberg was injured during Thursday's practice and was originally expected to be out 10-to-12 weeks . . . Flyers centre Michal Handzus played his 400th NHL game.