Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday at Wells Fargo Center:
Leafs rebound from disappointing loss to post first two goals of the night.
Following a disappointing effort against Columbus Wednesday night, the Leafs looked like a different team against a Flyers squad desperate to secure a playoff spot: goalie Jonathan Bernier continued his strong late-season play by turning aside all 11 shots he faced in the first period, and despite playing in front of a typically rabid Philly crowd, Toronto built a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to goals from William Nylander and Colin Greening. The goals knocked the wind out of the building for a time, and proved a little adversity less than 24 hours earlier wasn’t going to be an excuse for a poor game Thursday.
Two breakaway goals for Buds – including one that ended a streak of bad luck.
Greening’s goal (his seventh of the year) came nearly 10 minutes after Nylander scored – and was the first of two consecutive breakaway goals for Toronto. After Flyers forward Brayden Schenn cut the Leafs’ lead to 2-1 just 29 seconds into the second period, Buds winger Michael Grabner broke in alone on Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason some nine minutes later and scored his ninth of the season to restore the visitors’ two-goal advantage.
Grabner has had an inordinate amount of breakaways this year, but the veteran has battled through numerous injuries and quietly registered a solid season in his first year in Toronto. The success on the breakaway Thursday was a nice late-season reward for his perseverance.
Flyers push, but Toronto shows resilience before pulling it out in OT.
With such high stakes in the game, you knew the Flyers weren’t going to lie down after Grabner’s goal. They proved as much by outshooting the Leafs 33-13 in the final two periods and getting goals from Andrew MacDonald at 8:33 of the third and Wayne Simmonds with 58 seconds left in regulation time to send the game to overtime.
However, Toronto showed it had some push-back of its own in OT – controlling much of the play and pressuring MacDonald into a tripping penalty on Jake Gardiner – and got the game-winner (Gardiner’s seventh goal of the year) on the ensuing power play. It was a devastating loss for Philadelphia, and a great bounce-back performance for the Leafs.
Bernier ending year on a roll.
Bernier didn’t face a shot from the Flyers in overtime, but prior to that, he stopped 41 of 44 Philly shots to register his 13th win of the season. The 27-year-old has posted a save percentage of .920 or higher in seven of his past eight games and is finishing a roller-coaster season with focus and pride.
Another big night for the big-impact rookie.
Nylander began the evening by scoring his sixth goal of the season, sprung Greening’s breakaway goal with a brilliant feed, and added his second assist of the game on Gardiner’s overtime marker. The three-point game was Nylander’s second multi-point game in his past four games, and his second three-point night in his past 10 games.
The 19-year-old rookie now has 13 points in 21 career NHL games – and while we all realize he’s not anywhere close to his peak, it’s quite something to see how quickly Nylander has adapted to the best league on the planet. The more you watch him, the more you can’t wait for (a) the Marlies’ post-season run to begin; and (b) the 2016-17 NHL regular season to kick off. The kid is a keeper.