- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

TORONTO (AP) - After beating the Calgary Flames 3-2 on Tuesday night, the mood for the Toronto Maple Leafs was much more relief than happiness.

The result snapped an eight-game losing streak and kept the Leafs‘ slim playoff hopes alive.

“It feels like a lot of weight lifted off of our team,” captain Dion Phaneuf said. “We can feel good about ourselves because we won this game.”

The Leafs allowed themselves to feel good by picking up their first points since beating the Los Angeles Kings on March 13. They improved to 82 with five games remaining and passed Washington (81, six games left), but still trail Detroit (84, seven games left) and Columbus (83, seven games left) in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.

Catching either the Red Wings remains a daunting task. But for Toronto, any victory represented a confidence boost.

“It’s been a long time. It’s been too long,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “You hope that you can build on it, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because we didn’t paint a Mona Lisa here tonight.”

In getting goals from Jay McClement, Dave Bolland and the winner from David Clarkson, the Leafs prevented what would’ve been their first stretch of nine straight regulation losses since 1967, the last time this franchise won the Stanley Cup.

“We were flat for a big part of that game and gave up three rush chances,” said ex-Leafs forward Matt Stajan, who scored his 13th of the season for the Flames on a breakaway. “That’s how that team scores goals. You could say they got a bounce on the one. I’m guessing they haven’t had many bounces the last month …”

A loss of any kind to the Flames would’ve been devastating.

“It beats losing, that’s for sure,” said defenseman Cody Franson, who set up McClement for the game’s first goal 50 seconds into the second period.

Anything beats losing for the Leafs, who not too long ago were in second place in the Atlantic Division before going into this free fall.

Calgary got goals from Stajan and defenseman Kris Russell. Karri Ramo stopped 19 shots.

“I don’t think we got outplayed,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “It’s just they got one goal more than us. They were opportunistic at the right time and we got our chances late and we couldn’t capitalize on them, but it’s not by a lack of effort.”

Toronto’s goals came Tuesday night because McClement drove hard to the net, Bolland banked the puck off Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie and Mason Raymond sprung Clarkson on a breakaway. Jonathan Bernier also made 22 saves for his first victory since March 10.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it,” Bolland said. “I don’t think we played the prettiest game or we made the prettiest moves. But in a slump like that, just to get out of that, it’s great to get out of it.”

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