Philadelphia, PA – The Toronto Maple Leafs scored two early third period goals to break a 1-1 tie and then held on to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center Tuesday night, 3-2.
With the loss, the Flyers' four-game winning streak came to and end and they remain two points behind the New York Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division with 10 games left in the regular season.
It took all of 18 seconds of the final frame for Toronto to take its first lead of the game. After a neutral zone turnover, Mats Sundin fed Nik Antropov, who then found Alexei Ponikarovsky for an easy tap-in goal.
The Maple Leafs increased it to 3-1 when Alex Steen slammed in the rebound of a shot by Matt Stajan at 2:02.
Philadelphia seemed to turn it on after that, and outshot Toronto 16-7 in the final 20 minutes. R.J. Umberger cut to the net and got just enough of his stick on a feed from Michal Handzus at 15:55, but that was all that the Flyers would muster despite a hooking call to Darcy Tucker at 19:30 that gave them a six-on-four advantage with goaltender Antero Niittymaki pulled for an extra attacker.
"My opinion is that this is a good wake up call," said Ken Hitchcock. "We made some mistakes today. The mistake we made is that we had the wrong attitude to start the game and we could not recover. I am hoping that the players realize what we have done and that we continue to move forward and this is just a bump."
"From the start of the game we didn't check hard or play hard. It finally caught up with us in the third period," said Umberger. "We snuck by in the first two periods without getting the puck put in our net, and then the third they finally took over on our mistakes."
Before Umberger's goal, Philadelphia had several other good chances to cut the lead earlier in the period but Donald Brashear's redirection attempt towards an open net hit the post and an early whistle from referee Rob Shick nullified a goal by Mike Knuble.
"Sometimes when you play desperate hockey, that's when you get your chances. We were desperate when it was 3-1, but then it was too late," said Gagne.
The Flyers registered the first four shots of the game, and took a 1-0 lead on the power play at 3:58. Joni Pitkanen blasted a shot with Knuble setting a screen in front of goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin for his 12th goal of the season.
"We scored a goal and I think that may have been our worst enemy," said Derian Hatcher. "I think we came in with the right attitude, but when we got that first goal, I think we thought it might have been an easier night than it turned out to be."
Pitkanen now has 14 points in his last 10 games (2g, 12a).
Toronto, fighting for a playoff spot, registered the next 13 shots on goal to close out the first period and tied the game on Sundin's deflection of a shot from the point by Ian White at 14:33.
The Maple Leafs entered the game seven points behind the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
"When you give a team that is at a desperate state like Toronto some hope they are going to plow through," said Hitchcock.
The second period was devoid of the action that fans are used to from Flyers-Maple Leafs games, but there were still some scoring chances from each side. Sundin hit the outside of the post with a wrist shot early on, while Aubin gloved a breakaway attempt by Handzus with 4:10 left in the period, as well as a quick shot by Jeff Carter at the end of a Flyers power play with less than two minutes remaining as it remained 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Philadelphia has off until Saturday when the New Jersey Devils visit the Wachovia Center (2:00 p.m., CSN). The Flyers have 10 games left in the regular season; four at home and six on the road.
FLYERS NOTES Toronto made its first visit to Philadelphia this season, and returns on April 8. The teams split the first two contests at the Air Canada Centre. … Branko Radivojevic and Turner Stevenson were the healthy scratches. … Ed Belfour, Eric Lindros and Jason Allison are all out for the rest of the season for Toronto.