Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday at Air Canada Centre:
Leafs score first for the second straight game, but a pair of miscues in short order erased the lead.
After the Buds got on the scoreboard first for the second straight game – this time, on Shawn Matthias’ sixth goal of the season just 1:29 into the first period – Toronto suffered two defensive letdowns in short order: first, Flyers forward Sam Gagner evened the score at the 8:56 mark of the first; then, 39 seconds later, Jakub Voracek netted his 10th of the year to give the Flyers a 2-1 advantage heading into the middle frame. The Leafs were only able to get five shots on Philly goalie Steve Mason in the first 20 minutes, a number that usually never leads to good results. And head coach Mike Babcock wasn’t impressed by the sloppy play that followed the solid start.
“I thought we started great tonight,” Babcock said. “We played about seven minutes great, and then I thought the worst 13 minutes I’d seen in a long time from a competitive standpoint.”
Flyers pad their lead in the second, but Leafs roar back to tie things up, take a lead of their own.
Philadelphia extended their lead to 3-1 only 39 seconds into the second period – chasing Buds goalie Jonathan Bernier from the net in the process – but exactly 11 minutes after that, center Nick Spaling scored the first of three consecutive Toronto goals by redirecting a Nazem Kadri shot past Mason to cut the visitor’s lead to one.
Bernier’s replacement, James Reimer, held the home side in it the rest of the period, and the Leafs made the most of it early in the third, tying the game on Peter Holland’s ninth of the year – a goal created by a dazzling setup from Kadri for his second assist of the night, and one that caused the Flyers to pull Mason and replace him with Michal Neuvirth – at 3:16, then taking a 4-3 lead 76 seconds after that on Byron Froese’s second career NHL marker.
Toronto’s roster is seriously hobbled by the injury bug these days, but the Leafs who can still play demonstrated the resilience the team had come to be known for earlier in the season.
“We showed some character coming back in the game,” said winger P-A Parenteau. “They kind of took it to us in the start there, but we did show a lot of character, and it’s unfortunate we didn’t get the bounce in overtime again.”
Not a goaltending clinic from either side.
Both starting goalies were pulled in this game, which wasn’t solely an indictment of them, but rather, a reflection of the sloppy defensive play by both sides. However, after Flyers winger Matt Read scored his 10th of the year at the 5:04 mark of the third period, both Reimer and Neuvirth settled in and ensured the game went to overtime. We’ve seen both Reimer and Bernier perform brilliantly at times this season, and although neither had their best showing Saturday, Reimer continued to battle and helped his team earn a point in the standings.
“He made some big saves, for sure, gave us the opportunity to crawl back in there,” Kadri said of Reimer, who stopped 13 of 15 shots. “That’s what he’s been doing. He’s been good at that.”
Two disallowed goals for the Flyers.
The Flyers have a well-earned reputation as a team that doesn’t shy away from physical contact, and that cost them not one, but two goals Saturday. On the first one, Flyers forward Matt Read hit Bernier and the officials nullified Andrew MacDonald’s goal at ice level; on the second, Mark Streit had his goal disallowed after the Leafs challenged the play and the official ruling was that Brayden Schenn slid underneath Reimer. The disallowed goals and coach’s challenges haven’t always gone Toronto’s way this season, but they were a factor in the Buds getting a point on this night.
Spaling ends scoring drought.
Spaling’s goal at 11:57 of the second period was his first as a Leaf, and his first since Feb. 15, 2015. It was a nice reward for a player who has battled through some health woes since being acquired from Pittsburgh on July 1.
“Obviously, good for Spalling,” Babcock said. “He’s done a lot of good things for us. He got hurt, and now he’s on his way back, which is a real positive for us.”