JOHNSSON HAS PHENOMENAL OPENING PERIOD, SCORES GAME'S FIRST GOAL - AND THERE'S MORE TO COME FROM HIM
Seeking to halt a two-game losing streak, the Leafs returned home to Scotiabank Arena - and before the first period against the Flyers was halfway over, Toronto had a three-goal advantage.
The first goal - and the first of many in the opening frame - came from winger Andreas Johnsson, who beat Philly goaltender Calvin Pickard between the legs for his third goal of the season at the 4:45 mark:
Video: PHI@TOR: Johnsson fakes shot, goes five-hole
After Toronto's recent habit of giving up the first goal in games proved to be an issue, getting the first marker Saturday was big for the Buds. And as we'd find out in short order, it wouldn't be the last Leafs Nation would hear from Johnsson in the game.
LESS THAN TWO MINUTES AFTER OPENING THE SCORING, JOHNSSON STRIKES AGAIN
Johnsson was one of the American League Toronto Marlies' best players last season, and we saw why Saturday: just 1:34 after he scored his first goal of the night, Johnsson beat Pickard again - this time, on a breakaway - to double the Leafs' lead:
Video: PHI@TOR: Johnsson breaks away and pots second goal
Johnsson has been working hard on Toronto's fourth line all season, but the Hockey Gods haven't been kind to him in terms of high-quality scoring chances. However, on this occasion, he received two in less than two minutes, and capitalized on both of them.
LEAFS' GOAL SURGE CONTINUES AS MARLEAU SCORES SHORTLY AFTER JOHNSSON'S SECOND OF GAME
The Leafs had some struggles scoring in recent games, but that was not at all a problem for them in the first period, as forward Patrick Marleau's fifth goal of the year came only 1:24 after Johnsson's second goal:
Video: PHI@TOR: Marleau chips home loose puck from slot
The Flyers clearly weren't in their best defensive form, and Toronto's players were focused on making them pay. Marleau's goal gave the Leafs a healthy hold on the scoreboard, but the Buds' scorers weren't done before the first intermission arrived.
JOHNSSON KEEPS PUSHING, COMES UP WITH HAT TRICK BEFORE FIRST PERIOD ENDS
Johnsson looked like a man possessed in the first, and before the first intermission arrived, he scored yet again to record a hat trick and put the Leafs ahead 4-0:
Video: PHI@TOR: Johnsson completes first-period hatty
Johnsson's feat of scoring three times in one period was a rarity - former Leafs centre Tyler Bozak was the last Toronto player to accomplish it when he scored three against the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 21, 2015 - and it put the Buds in the driver's seat as the second period began.
LEAFS' SCORING BALANCE EVIDENT AS LEIVO EXTENDS TORONTO'S LEAD
The Buds weren't as dominant in the second frame when it came to goal-scoring, but with goalie Garret Sparks and the Leafs' defense keeping the Flyers off the scoresheet through 40 minutes, they didn't have to be.
That said, more offense is still good whenever it comes, and for Leafs winger Josh Leivo, it came at 11:07 of the second for his third goal of the season:
Video: PHI@TOR: Leivo buries Marner's feed to extend lead
Leivo's goal no doubt will boost his confidence, and it underscores how much scoring depth and balance the Buds have in their arsenal.
TAVARES ADDS TO SCORING OUTBURST, NETS TEAM-LEADING 15TH BEFORE SECOND ENDS
Leafs centre John Tavares has been a huge contributor in his first year with Toronto, having an impact at both ends of the rink. And Tavares added to his team-leading goal total when he netted his 15th of the season with 2:50 remaining in the second period:
Video: PHI@TOR: Tavares finds twine on broken play
Winger Mitch Marner created space in the offensive zone, and Tavares swooped in and acted like a predator in firing it past Flyers netminder Anthony Stolarz (who replaced Pickard after Johnsson's hat trick), and the Leafs led by six entering the third period. To say the Flyers looked deflated would be kind, but it would also be true they looked that way well before Tavares scored.
SPARKS STANDS STRONG IN NET, REGISTERS FIRST SHUTOUT OF YEAR FOR BUDS
Having a healthy lead in front of him certainly helped Sparks Saturday, but the 25-year-old still had to turn aside 35 Flyers shots to earn his fourth win of the season. Sparks doesn't get a wealth of playing time while serving as the understudy for Frederik Andersen, but he's played well when he's received an opportunity, and the shutout - the second of his NHL career and first since Nov. 30, 2015.
All in all, it turned out in his favour - and in the Leafs' favour - in what was pretty much a one-sided throttling by the Leafs.