TORONTO (AP) - Danny Briere's playoff success has carried over in a quick start to this season.
Briere scored a pair of goals and added an assist in the Philadelphia Flyers' 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. The small center has scored four goals in four games and has 16 goals already this season.
Briere led the way with 30 points in 23 playoff games last season when Philadelphia reached the Stanley Cup finals. Most of that production came when he played between Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, a trio that is still thriving.
"It started last year in the playoffs," said Briere, who has 37 points in 34 games against Toronto. "For some reason it just keeps going. Even through some tough times early in the season, the coach kept us together, didn't mess up our line.
"We love playing with each other, we seem to have that chemistry in finding each other really well. That's a big reason I have goals right now."
Briere scored Philadelphia's final two goals. Leino and Chris Pronger also scored to put the Flyers (18-7-5) ahead 2-0 in the first period. Brian Boucher made 31 saves.
"I thought we played a good game for the most part," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "There was a few minutes in the second period at the end where we were a little bit loose, but I think overall we were pretty good defensively, pretty good on the attack, and we came out skating right away."
After posting a career-best 95 points with the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006-07 season, Briere signed an eight-year deal with the Flyers. After a few seasons in which he produced less than expected and battled injuries, Briere has found his place.
"There's no doubt that since the playoffs last year, this is the best I've felt, the most comfortable I've been," he said. "(My) responsibilities are up. Any hockey player who's competitive, you want those responsibilities."
Mikhail Grabovski scored his third goal in three games, but the Maple Leafs (10-14-4) fell behind by three goals for the third consecutive game and second straight night. Toronto has trailed 1-0 in five straight games.
Phil Kessel was particularly frustrated after his seventh straight game without a goal.
"I'm disappointed in myself, obviously," he said. "I'm getting chances to score goals, I'm just not burying them. I've got to bear down and find a way to get it done. ... They brought me in here to score goals and right now I'm (in) a big struggle.
"I've got to figure it out."
The Maple Leafs failed to respond to frustrated coach Ron Wilson, who blasted his players for their effort following a 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The return of Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf didn't have much impact, but the defenseman forced a turnover and earned an assist on Grabovski's goal.
Even though Toronto fell behind again, the Maple Leaf had plenty of quality scoring chances. Colby Armstrong was denied on a point-blank opportunity, Francois Beauchemin failed to lift the puck into the empty net from the edge of the crease, and Kris Versteeg rang a shot off the post on a 2-on-1 break early in the second period.
By then, the Flyers led 2-0.
"It's not good enough," Kessel said. "We've been giving ourselves some holes here, and in the NHL you can't come back all the time from those leads."
Kessel scored seven goals in the first eight games this season, but has only three in the 20 games since then. Toronto is 5-12-3 during that stretch.
"He's just got to keep shooting the puck," Wilson said. "He was getting fed tonight. When he gets those opportunities, the puck's going to go in. Hopefully, it breaks the slump."
Leino opened the scoring just seconds into a power play at 11:13 of the first period, beating Jean-Sebastien Giguere through the legs. Pronger's scored with a point shot through traffic a little over a minute later.
More boos from the home crowd - a familiar refrain in recent weeks - started when Briere got his first of the night, taking a shot off the end boards and sliding the puck it into an empty net at 12:18 of the second.
Grabovski briefly restored some hope by finishing a nice tic-tac-toe passing sequence at 16:14, but Briere's goal 1:03 later restored Philadelphia's three-goal advantage.
A broken pane of glass forced a delay with less than 5 minutes left, and many fans headed to the exits. Those who remained booed the Maple Leafs off the ice.
Notes: Wayne Gretzky was in attendance with his father. ... Mike Komisarek and Jay Rosehill sat out for the Maple Leafs because of undisclosed upper body injuries. ... Giguere made his second start in 11 games.
|PPG - Ville Leino (7) ASST: Kimmo Timonen (13), Mike Richards (19)|
1 - 0 PHI
|Chris Pronger (4) ASST: Daniel Briere (7), Matthew Carle (13)|
2 - 0 PHI
|Daniel Briere (15) ASST: Andrej Meszaros (9), Sean O'Donnell (5)|
3 - 0 PHI
|Mikhail Grabovski (8) ASST: Clarke MacArthur (13), Dion Phaneuf (5)|
3 - 1 PHI
|Daniel Briere (16) ASST: Andrej Meszaros (10), Jody Shelley (2)|
4 - 1 PHI
|Colby Armstrong Hi-sticking against Scott Hartnell|
|Braydon Coburn Hooking against Nikolay Kulemin|
|Braydon Coburn Cross checking against Nikolay Kulemin|
|Sean O'Donnell Interference against Kris Versteeg|
|James van Riemsdyk Hooking against Kris Versteeg|
|Mikhail Grabovski Boarding against Matthew Carle|
|Jody Shelley Misconduct (10 min)|
|Colby Armstrong Hi-sticking against Mike Richards|
|Dion Phaneuf Slashing against Jeff Carter|