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Kessel, Bolland, Bernier lead Maple Leafs past Flyers

by Adam Kimelman /

PHILADELPHIA -- As far as birthdays go, it was a pretty good one for Phil Kessel.

One day after receiving an early present from the Toronto Maple Leafs -- an eight-year contract extension reportedly valued at $64 million -- he celebrated his 26th birthday Wednesday by scoring his first goal of the season to help the Maple Leafs sweep their season-opening back-to-back set with a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"There were a lot of positives," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said of Kessel. "He's going to have to get a bigger wallet."

The win came 24 hours after the Maple Leafs opened the season with a 4-3 win at the Montreal Canadiens.

The first of Dave Bolland's two goals, 2:30 into the third period, snapped a 1-1 tie created by Kessel's goal late in the second period. Jonathan Bernier, in his first start for the Maple Leafs, made 31 saves.

Though Bolland will get credited with the game-winning goal, a major assist went to the Maple Leafs' penalty-killing unit, which shut down six of the Flyers' seven power-play chances.

Brayden Schenn scored the Flyers' goal. Steve Mason made 22 saves.

Schenn's goal with 6.9 seconds left in the first period opened the scoring, but Kessel tied the score late in the second. Early in the third Bolland -- acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in June, days after he scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final -- scored another winner.

The Flyers got the puck behind the net in their end, but Nikolai Kulemin bumped Mark Streit off the puck, and Joffrey Lupul picked it up and found Bolland open in front of the Philadelphia net. He one-timed the pass over Mason at 2:30 to put the Maple Leafs ahead 2-1.

The Flyers pushed to get the goal back, outshooting the Maple Leafs 10-5 after falling behind. Philadelphia's best chance came with 3:48 remaining, when Vincent Lecavalier had a bouncing puck land on his stick at the side of the net, and as he lunged for the shot, Bernier shot out his right pad and glove to deflect it into the protective netting.

Bolland closed the scoring with a power-play goal with 22.5 seconds left when he came in from the right side to bang in the rebound of a Lupul shot.

Bolland got the extra ice time in the second period, when Carlyle moved him into Nazem Kadri's spot on the second line with Kulemin and Lupul.

"I thought that they would try in their matchups to probably work Lecavalier or [Claude] Giroux against Kadri," Carlyle said. "It's a young player, and we felt that having the flexibility to put Bolland up there gave us another competitive, veteran guy to play against those guys."

Bolland appreciated the fact his new coach already has developed a level of trust with him.

"The way Randy plays it is, if you're going to play hard you're going to play," Bolland said. "If you're not playing well, you won't. That's the way it should be. You respect that."

Despite the loss, the Flyers were able to find a few positives. They finished the game with a 32-25 advantage in shots, the seven power plays, and held the Maple Leafs without a shot for a 12:13 span in the first period.

"Offensively that's the best we've looked in a while," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. "But at the end of the day you've got to score more than one goal to win a game. We had a lot of chances, but there were plenty of missed shots and shots that they had blocked. It seemed like we had a lot of zone time, but you have to give Toronto credit because they made us earn the tough ice and played a solid game defensively."

The missed chances on the power play are what bothered some Flyers.

"I thought we moved the puck around pretty well and had some great chances," Lecavalier said. "Just couldn't put it away."

Kessel tied the game with 2:54 left in the second period. Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf intercepted a long Maxime Talbot pass in the neutral zone, entered the Philadelphia zone and shot through a screen by Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn. Mason picked up the puck late and kicked his left leg out to deflect the shot. Kadri drove to the net for the rebound but tumbled over Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, creating a screen for Kessel, who picked up the loose puck in the slot.

The goal followed the announcement Tuesday of the contract extension that can keep the forward with the Maple Leafs through the 2021-22 season.

"That's obviously a special day for him," Lupul said. "Good day for all of us and Leafs fans to get him locked up for a long time. And then he did what he does today. There wasn't lot of room out there today and he got an opportunity and buried it."

The Flyers had a chance to go ahead when Wayne Simmonds was awarded a penalty shot with 3.1 seconds remaining in the second period after he was pulled down on a breakaway by Paul Ranger. Simmonds skated in on Bernier and tried to get the Maple Leafs goalie moving side to side to open space between his pads, but Bernier snapped his legs closed to deny his attempt.

Bernier had a bit of built-in knowledge; he and Simmonds were teammates in Los Angeles for two seasons.

"I played with [Simmonds], he's got a pretty good shot," Bernier said. "So I was expecting a shot, so I tried to get far and take away the angles."

Players and coaches on each side could feel the importance of Bernier's save.

"[Plays] like that … those are momentum swings that can carry a team into the room," Carlyle said. "I think with him stopping the penalty shot it gave our room an extra boost between the second and third."

Laviolette said, "It would have been nice to capitalize there and gain some momentum to end the period. But Bernier played a solid game for them in net."

The first period had a frantic end. Streit dumped the puck into the Toronto zone, and as it rolled behind the net to the right side, Lecavalier bumped Mason Raymond off the puck and carried it behind the goal. As Lecavalier came from behind off the left post, he backhanded a pass to Schenn in the low slot, who beat Bernier.

"Anytime you score a goal and help contribute to the team is obviously a plus and a bonus," Schenn said. "There was some pretty nifty work by Vinny down low which just goes to show you how good he is."

That was the only one of the 15 first-period shots the Flyers threw at Bernier that got past him.

"Bernier kept us in it mostly the whole night," Bolland said. "He was kicking that puck everywhere. He was the backbone for us tonight. He saved us."


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